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Postre: Russia: Update on Litvinenko Case; Responses to Hashimoto and Heelan (Boris Volodarsky, ex-USSR) (John Eipper, USA, 09/02/07 5:26 pm)
Boris Volodarsky writes:
I am pleased to answer Tom Hashimoto (2 September), first and foremost, because I am very fond of Japan (its culture, language, people, and, of course, its marvelous cuisine).
If somebody wants to kill somebody in today's Britain, polonium is an ideal poison. First of all, due to its alpha radiation, it is not detected by airport Geiger counters that are programmed to detect gamma radiation. Besides, Britain has not been working with polonium-210 for at least 25 years, and has no experience in identifying it and its symptoms in a human body. Therefore, the doctors who treated Sasha Litvinenko were unable to find it until 3 hours before his death and even that was made in a special laboratory (AWE) in Aldermaston. They sent probes to Aldermaston only after the late Prof. John Henry (erroneously, in some part) diagnosed that there must have been radioactive poisoning (by the radioactive thallium). I stressed in my *Wall Street Journal* article on 22 November 2006, while Litvinenko was still alive, that there was a clear case of radioactive poisoning.
1. It takes only 11 days to accomplish the task with a victim suffering all the same symptoms as with "normal" food poisoning or bacteria. It is a miracle that Sasha lived so long, but he was young and a good athlete and never drank or smoked. On the contrary, a hit-man is a complex task in an operation against an experienced FSB officer and no positive outcome is guaranteed.
2. Polonium is not a rare material, and its origin cannot be easily identified. In fact, it has not been publicly identified as coming from Russia, so far. On the other hand, Russian special laboratories have been working with radioactive poisons at least since 1950s, and a good example is the poisoning of Nikolay Khokhlov by radioactive thallium in 1957 (which led to John's mistaken diagnosis --thallium is indeed a by-product of a polonium poisoning and an amount of it was found in Sasha's body in the evening of November 16).
3. Polonium doesn't cost more than a gun. In fact, it has the same price for a state-run laboratory that receives its annual budgets for such a specific research: rumours that polonium is very expensive are ungrounded.
4. Polonium-210--as other poisons used in international operations--has been used only once: in the Litvinenko case. No other uses of polonium-210 have ever been documented. A classic KGB tradition is to use one specific poison for only one operation and never to repeat it again to avoid a "precedental" investigation.
5. The FSB is not authorized (nor that they have capacities) to carry out such complex operations abroad. It was the SVR, fully equipped and having officers trained for such things. To kill Sasha secretly one can not dream of a better weapon than polonium.
The purpose of every "direct action" (murder, in the KGB parlance) is always to kill and never to threaten. The KGB is a serious organisation--it acts, but does not play games.
No message "to somebody else"--just a killing.
The FSB did not carry out this crime--the SVR did. No "rational reasons" are involved: only the operational plan. They were advised by experts that polonium was the best weapon, so they used it.
As mentioned, there is not any doubt that the murder was carried out by Russian services. Most certainly, it was a joint operation planned by the FSB but carried out by SVR professionals. Lugovoy was not a murderer but took direct part in the operation. The operation had been going on for about a year. The Russian SVR station at the embassy took part, therefore the British expelled 4 Russians (all SVR) showing that they know for sure what happened. And they do.
Among the Russian poisonings of the XXI century are Kivelidi, Tsepov, Khattab, Shchekochikin, Yushchenko, Litvinenko, plus the murder of Yandarbiev in Qatar and Politkovskaya in Moscow.
In a separate message, Boris Volodarsky replies to John Heelan's post of 2 September:
John Heelan suggested a legal proceeding that is not accepted by Russia, I am afraid. The main points are the following: Russia does not extradite her citizens (which is actually not true; there are examples of extradition, but the Kremlin's aggressive unwillingness supports the version of a state-sponsored crime), so a neutral courtroom is out of the question. Russia also does not (correctly) allow English judges to try anybody in Russia under English law (obviously, because on the Russian territory it is Russian law that governs). Besides, the British position is that the crime was committed on British soil against a British citizen, therefore the court trial must be in Britain. The idea of sending English judges to Russia is absolutely unacceptable to both sides. Unfortunately, no diplomatic solution works here. The only way, I am afraid, is to use pressure in this or that form. And the European community and NATO must join Britain in this "trivial pursuit."
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John Eipper, Editor-in-Chief, Adrian College, MI 49221 USA