Alexander Litvinenko

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Person.png Alexander Litvinenko  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, whistleblower)
Alexander Litvinenko.jpg
Born30 August 1962
Voronezh, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died23 November 2006 (Age 44)
London, United Kingdom
NationalityUnited Kingdom, Soviet Union, Russian Federation
ExposedRussian apartment bombings
Interest ofWilliam Dunkerley
An exiled Russian former security officer turned whistleblower who died of Polonium poisoning in London.

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko (30 August 1962 – 23 November 2006) was a former officer of the Russian FSB secret service, who specialised in tackling organised crime.[1] In November 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested the following March on charges of exceeding the authority of his position. He was acquitted in November 1999 but re-arrested before the charges were again dismissed in 2000. He fled with his family to London and was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a journalist, writer and "consultant" for both MI5 and MI6


Born in Voronezh, south-west Russia, he joined the army out of school, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Then, in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1988, he entered the counter-intelligence department of the KGB.
In 1991, once the KGB's directorates had split up, he worked for the federal security service (FSB), fighting terrorism and organised crime, sometimes operating in Chechnya. In 1997 he moved to one of the most secret divisions of the service, a unit called URPO investigating "organised criminal formations".[2]

Boris Berezovsky

It is understood that he had special responsibility for countering attempts by the Russian mafia to infiltrate the security services. In 1998, he declared his failure at this task. At a press conference he accused the FSB, then headed by Mr Putin, of ordering him to assassinate Mr Berezovsky. In turn charged with corruption by Moscow, Mr Litvinenko fled to London and continued his onslaught with a book, The FSB Blows Up Russia, in which he accused his former employers of murdering 300 people in 1999 by demolishing apartment blocks with explosives and blaming the attacks on Chechen rebels.[3]

Global Drug Trade

"Litvinenko was working for the KGB in St Petersburg in 2001 and 2002. He became concerned at the vast amounts of heroin coming from Afghanistan, in particular from the fiefdom of the (now) head of the Afghan armed forces, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, in north and east Afghanistan."
Craig Murray

Mitrokhin Commission

In December 2003, Litvinenko was approached by Mario Scaramella to take part in the Mitrokhin Commission that had been formed two years earlier by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi ostensibly to discover if senior figures in the Italian establishment had been in the pay of the KGB - in reality a vehicle for smearing Berlusconi's socialist enemies.

The commission was a meal ticket and would enable him to see more of his brother, Maxim, who had fled Russia before him and was living in Senigallia, a small Italian port on the Adriatic coast. Litvinenko's only concern was about the value of the information he had to bring to the table. In the FSB, he'd had no connection with the foreign wing and no knowledge of its network of recruits in abroad, the people who were to be the focus of the commission.
To back him up, he took along a new contact he had made through the Berezovsky circle, Evgeni Limarev, also a Russian exile, who lived in France and was the son of a high-ranking KGB officer.[4]

Targets of the Mitrokhin Commission included former Italian Prime Ministers Romano Prodi and Massimo D'Alema, Green Party leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, other senior politicians, intelligence officials and judges, as well as journalists from La Repubblica.

Romano Prodi

Litvinenko had no compunction in recalling a piece of gossip he had been told by a former KGB deputy director as he fled Russia. In 2000, General Anatoly Trofimov had warned Litvinenko not to go to Rome since "Prodi is our man in Italy". He was referring to Romano Prodi, the former Italian prime minister who went on to become president of the European Commission.
Now Litvinenko regurgitated the unfounded claim to Scaramella who persuaded him to write it down.[5]

On 29 March 2006, Litvinenko met UKIP MEP Gerard Batten at the Itsu restaurant in London. Four days later, with an Italian general election imminent, Batten called for an Inquiry into Prodi in the European Parliament. Prodi responded by threatening to sue Litvinenko and Scaramella. In the resulting controversy, Silvio Berlusconi was forced to wind up the Mitrokhin Commission, and Prodi won the election.[6]

The Imam Rapito Affair

Litvinenko, Limarev and Scaramella met in Italy with Robert Seldon Lady, a CIA agent posted as a political officer to the US consulate in Milan. Lady was allegedly involved in the so-called Imam Rapito affair, the kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. The Mitrokhin Commission investigated allegations that the prosecutor in the case, Armando Spataro, had secret links to the KGB.[7]

Semion Mogilevich

Litvinenko and Scaramella clamed that Semion Mogilevich, a Ukrainian organised crime boss, had extensive links to the Putin government in Russia. [8]

Alexander Talik

In October 2005, Litvinenko accused Ukrainian Alexander Talik of being an FSB agent in Italy with links to Mogilevich. Talik claimed he had been framed after refusing to provide information to Scaramella.

In the same month, Litvinenko and Scaramella gave Italian police details of a plot to Kill Litvinenko's borther Maxim. In November Litvinenko released the story in the Ukrainian press. By now the Italian police had begun tapping the phones of Litvinenko, Scaramella and Talik.[9]

Andrei Lugovoi

In January 2006, Litvinenko attended Boris Berezovsky's birthday party at Blenheim Palace. He was seated with Andrei Lugovoi, who, according to The Guardian was a former KGB and FSB colleague of Alexander Talik. Livinenko reportedly told Alex Goldfarb that he had agreed to become Lugovoi's man in London.[10]

Limarev claims

In October 2006, Evgeni Limarev sent Scaramella a series of emails claiming that the Russians were out to kill everyone connected with the Mitrokhin Commission. These emails were reportedly the subject of Scaramella's final meeting with Litvinenko.[11]

Polonium poisoning

Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium at some time on or around 1 November 2006.

Millennium Hotel Meeting

The first, at 10am, was at the Millennium Mayfair Hotel in central London with Sergei Lugovoy, a former KGB bodyguard and businessman who runs a security company in Moscow. Mr Lugovoy said he had been in London to watch a football match between Arsenal and CSKA Moscow. Also at the meeting were two other people unknown to Mr Litvinenko Dmitry Kovtun, the business partner of Mr Lugovoy, and another friend and partner named as Vyacheslav Sokolenko. Friends of Mr Litvinenko insist that he drank tea during the meeting.[12]

Itsu restaurant meeting

By 3pm, Mr Litvinenko had moved from Mayfair to the elegant façades of Piccadilly, where he met Mario Scaramella, another long-standing contact who had called him out of the blue saying he wanted to bring forward a meeting planned for 10 November to discuss important documents. The Italian examining magistrate who, among his many job descriptions, includes the titles of environmental campaigner and law professor, told Mr Litvinenko that he had received a death threat aimed at both of them. They met for 35 minutes in the basement of a branch of Itsu, a sushi restaurant chain. Mr Scaramella said last week that, while he himself drank only water, Mr Litvinenko bought food and drink from a chiller cabinet.[13]

Erinys connection

Ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko visited Erinys' offices in London shortly before his death from polonium poisoning.

Litvinenko then proceeded to the Millennium Hotel, where he had an appointment to see Andrei Lugovoi, who had also served in the FSB up until 1999 and who now owned a private security firm in Moscow. He had been meeting with Mr. Lugovoi on his trips to London for several months, and two weeks earlier had brought him to Erinys International, one of the security companies in Mr. Berezovsky's building, to discuss a business proposal. According to Mr. Lugovoi, Litvinenko now wanted to discuss the progress of that venture, and so met him and his business associate Dmitry Kovtun in the crowded Pine Bar for tea. After leaving the Pine Bar, Litvinenko went to Mr. Berezovsky's office. When he returned home, according to his wife Marina, he felt ill. Two days later, he was admitted to Barnet General Hospital.[14]

Final Days

After three days of sickness and stomach pains Mr Litvinenko was admitted to Barnet General Hospital, north London on 4 November.[15] It was initially suspected that he had been poisoned with thallium.

The main, if not only, source for the revenge-murder scenario were people funded by Mr. Berezovsky. A Web site in France, which had received financing from Mr. Berezovsky's foundation, circulated a report that there was a Russian "hit list" that had Litvinenko's name on it. Even though the "hit list" itself never materialized, it helped link the death of Litvinenko in the public mind with that of Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading journalist who had been murdered a month earlier, in October 2006, and whose name was also on the putative hit list. Meanwhile, a Chechen website, also supported by Mr. Berezovsky's foundation, ran stories such as "FSB Attempted to Murder Russian Defector in London."
At the hospital, Mr. Berezovsky's PR consultant, Lord Tim Bell, began briefing journalists, arranging interviews, and supplying photographs of an emaciated, hairless Litvinenko.[16]

On 17 November he was transferred to University College Hospital under armed guard as his condition worsened.[17] According to Edward Jay Epstein's account, doctors realised that Litvinenko was suffering from polonium poisoning only a few hours before his death on 23 November 2006. A a press conference that day, Berezovsky associate Alex Goldfarb read out a statement that he said had been dictated to him by Litvinenko, which accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of responsibility for his murder.[18]


The Health Protection Agency confirmed on 24 November that Litvinenko had been poisoned by Polonium 210.[19] The next day the HPA announced that Polonium-210 had been found in "a small number of areas at the Itsu sushi restaurant at 167 Piccadilly, London, and in some areas of the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London , and at Mr Litvinenko's home in Muswell Hill."[20] On 28 November the HPA said it was "also aware of the two new addresses where Police confirmed last night that traces of Polonium-210 had been found - 7 Down Street and 25 Grosvenor Street.[21] On the 29th, the HPA confirmed that traces had been found at 58 Grosvenor Street. [22].

On 6 December, the HPA announced that localised contamination had been found at Parkes Hotel.[23]On the 8th, it said that traces of contamination had been found at 1 Cavendish Place.[24]

On 1 December, the HPA said that a second person "who was in direct and very close contact with Mr Litvinenko has a significant quantity of the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 (Po-210) in their body."[25] This was Mario Scaramella, but on the 9th, the HPA said that further tests showed only "very low levels of Po-210 in his body."[26]

In November 2007, Edward Jay Epstein visited Moscow and was shown the British files by Russian investigators.

What immediately caught my attention was that it did not include the basic documents in any murder case, such as the postmortem autopsy report, which would help establish how — and why — Litvinenko died. In lieu of it, Detective Inspector Robert Lock of the Metropolitan Police Service at the New Scotland Yard wrote that he was "familiar with the autopsy results" and that Litvinenko had died of "Acute Radiation Syndrome."
Like Sherlock Holmes's clue of the dog that didn't bark, this omission was illuminating in itself.[27]

Public Inquiry

On 21 January 2016, a long-awaited report into the death of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko [28] found two Russian men - Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun - deliberately poisoned 44-year-old Litvinenko in London in 2006 by putting the radioactive substance polonium-210 into his drink. The original inquest into the death became stalled over the refusal of the government to allow evidence from MI5 and MI6 to be presented. 8 years later the inquest was turned into a so-called "Public Inquiry" in which much of its evidence was heard in private. The Russian Investigative Committee into the death refused to take part on the grounds that it was not public. The Inquiry declined to take video-link evidence from either of the men it evenually concluded were responsible for the death. [29]

Inquiry chairman Sir Robert Owen said he was "sure" Litvinenko's murder had been carried out by the two men and that they were probably acting under the direction of Moscow's FSB intelligence service, and approved by the FSB's Nikolai Patrushev and President Putin. He said Mr Litvinenko's work for MI5 and MI6, his criticism of the FSB and Mr Putin, and his association with other Russian dissidents were possible motives for his killing. There was also "undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism" between Mr Putin and Mr Litvinenko.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons that the murder was a "blatant and unacceptable" breach of international law, and said Prime Minister David Cameron would raise the findings with President Putin at "the next available opportunity". A Downing Street spokeswoman said the report's conclusions were "extremely disturbing", saying: "It is not the way for any state, let alone a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to behave."

Responding to the report, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Alexander Yakovenko said:

"For us it is absolutely unacceptable that the report concludes that the Russian state was in any way involved in the death of Mr Litvinenko on British soil," [30]

Andrei Lugovoi, who is now a politician in Russia, said:

"The results of the investigation made public today yet again confirm London's anti-Russian position, its blinkeredness and the unwillingness of the English to establish the true reason of Litvinenko's death."

Dmitry Kovtun said he would not comment on the report until he got more information about its contents.[31]




  1. Litvinenko death: Russian spy 'was working for MI6' – BBC News, 13 December 2012
  2. Obituary: Alexander Litvinenko, by Tom Parfitt, The Guardian, 25 November 2006.
  3. Who Killed Litvinenko?, by Cahal Milmo, The Independent, 25 November 2006.
  4. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  5. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  6. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  7. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  8. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  9. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  10. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  11. Why a spy was killed, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, 26 January 2008.
  12. Who Killed Litvinenko?, by Cahal Milmo, The Independent, 25 November 2006.
  13. Who Killed Litvinenko?, by Cahal Milmo, The Independent, 25 November 2006.
  14. The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko, Edward Jay Epstein, New York Sun, 18 March 2008.
  15. Timeline: Litvinenko death case, BBC News, 27 July 2007.
  16. The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko, by Edward Jay Epstein, The New York Sun, 19 March 2008.
  17. Timeline: Litvinenko death case, BBC News, 27 July 2007.
  18. The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko, by Edward Jay Epstein, The New York Sun, 19 March 2008.
  19. Mr Alexander Litvinenko- Health Protection Agency Statement, 24 November 2006.
  20. Update Statement on the Public Health Issues related to Polonium-210, 25 November 2006.
  21. Update on public health issues related to the Polonium-210 incident, 28 November 2006.
  22. Update on public health issues related to the Polonium-210 incident, 29 November 2006.
  23. Update on public health issues related to Polonium-210 investigation, 6 December 2006.
  24. Update on public health issues related to Polonium-210 investigation, 8 December 2006.
  25. Update on public health issues related to Polonium-210 investigation, 1 December 2006.
  26. Update on public health issues related to Polonium-210 investigation, 9 December 2006.
  27. The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko, by Edward Jay Epstein, The New York Sun, 19 March 2008.
  28. The Litninenko Inquiry report - pdf
  29. UK Report Claims Putin to Blame for Litvinenko Death - Sputnik International 21 January 2016
  30. Claims of Russia 'in Any Way' Involved in Litvinenko Death 'Unacceptable' - Sputnik International 21 January 2016
  31. "President Putin 'probably' approved Litvinenko murder"