Kremlin killings?

The front page of Sunday’s edition of The New York Times bears the headline ‘More of the Kremlin’s Critics are Ending Up Dead’. According to the long article which follows: ‘Muckraking journalists, rights advocates, opposition politicians, government whistle-blowers and other Russians who threaten that image are treated harshly — imprisoned on trumped-up charges, smeared in the news media and, with increasing frequency, killed.’ The article then cites Gennadi V. Gudkov, ‘a former member of Parliament and onetime lieutenant colonel in the KGB’ as saying, ‘The government is using the special services to liquidate its enemies. … It was not just Litvinenko, but many others we don’t know about, classified as accidents or maybe semi-accidents.’

I have two serious doubts about the Times article. First, it makes a claim about an ‘increased’ frequency of state-sponsored murder without providing any evidence that such murders are indeed more frequent than in the past. The article mentions 13 deaths. The great majority of these occurred before Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012. This is hardly evidence of an ‘increasing’ frequency of state-sponsored murder

Second and more importantly, the article fails to provide evidence that most of the people it mentions did indeed die unnatural deaths and also died at the hands of Kremlin assassins.

There is certainly an element of truth in the article. It seems clear that the Russian secret services were responsible for the death of at least one of those mentioned – Ibn al Khattab – while a second – Sergei Magnitsky – died in police custody. It is also not unreasonable to claim a link between Russian intelligence and the death of Alexander Litvinenko, while the death of another person mentioned – Alexander Perepelichny – undoubtedly seems suspicious. Had the New York Times limited itself to those cases, it would have been on much more solid ground. Unfortunately, it goes beyond them and includes several more cases in which people apparently died of natural causes, or in which evidence of a link between the Kremlin and the death in question is not provided.

Take, for instance, Oktai Gasanov, who was connected to the company Heritage Capital, which Russian police accused of fraud – a case which led to Magnitsky’s imprisonment and death. But Gasanov died while the alleged fraud would have been still in its early stages. There was no reason for the Kremlin to be interested in him. Furthermore, The New York Times lists his cause of death as ‘heart failure’. Similarly, the article mentions the deaths in 2016 of two former officials of the Russian sports anti-doping agency, Nikita Kumaev and Viacheslav Sinev. I haven’t been able to find details for Sinev but Kumaev is said to have died of a heart attack. In neither case does The New York Times or any other source I have found provide any evidence that either man’s death was other than natural. There has been speculation that Kumaev was about to ‘reveal all’ about Russia’s doping policies, and perhaps The New York Times thinks that he was murdered to stop this. But if so, it doesn’t say so, let alone provide any proof.

In two other instances, the article mentions people who clearly did suffer unnatural deaths, but without giving any indication of why it thinks these deaths were linked to the Kremlin. The first case is that of Ivan Kivelidi, a business killed by cadmium poisoning in 1995. As The New York Times itself admitted at the time, then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ‘expressed outrage over Mr Kivelidi’s death’ at a Cabinet meeting, and attended his funeral. The second case is that of Mikhail Lesin, who died of ‘blunt force trauma’ in a Washington hotel room in 2015. But Mr Lesin was a Kremlin loyalist, not an opponent. The New York Times wants us to believe that Russian intelligence killed both Mr Kivelidi and Mr Lesin, but it provides no evidence, and it seems rather unlikely.

There is a case to be made that the Russian state has been involved in some extrajudicial killings. But the lack of evidence produced by The New York Times in the majority of the cases this article lists makes its overall thesis very unconvincing.

18 thoughts on “Kremlin killings?”

  1. You seem to be getting the chronology wrong again, just as in Yanukovych case. Hermitage Capital and Magnitsky reported an illegal takeover of their company and tax fraud by the tax inspectors to the Investigative Commitee as early as in 2007. These reports were ignored by Russian law enforcement. HC continued to file official reports and complaints through 2008, when Magnitsky was finally arrested, but nonetheless continued to testify against the tax inspectors until he was killed in 2009. The fraud accusations against Magnitsky himself were only raised afterwards and led to an absurd and illegal court ruling of 2013 when dead Magnitsky was “convicted” four years after his death. None of the fraud reports against tax inspectors were actually investigated which allowed them to continue the same fraud scheme against other companies, stealing over 16 billion (!) roubles from the state budget long after Magnitsky died. But Russia is a rich country and has no problem with its tax inspectors buying multi-million dollars mansions in Dubai and Miami using stolen budget money…


  2. Ah. I recently read a Russian article, listing seven (or nine? don’t remember) murders committed (allegedly) by the Clinton campaign just within the last few months. American anti-system journos allege fewer, and at least one, the Seth Rich case, seems very plausible to me.

    It’s not surprising that The New York Times, being, clearly, an arm of the Clinton campaign, would react in this manner. WaPo would be a more likely culprit, but I guess the Times is trying to beat the competition… What a farce…


    1. There are people in this country who have a list of hundreds of people the Clinton’s have murdered in their rise to power. The CIA and LBJ still have not been called out for the death of John F. Kennedy. All part of the distraction to blame others for the criminal acts committed in the USA.


    1. The problem Russia has with Litvinenko’s murder is that Lugovoi and Kovtun attempted to poison him not once but three times, leaving clearly detectable clear polonium trail over half of London and Hamburg. Should they choose ricine, for example (as used to kill Markov), they would be probably be able to maintain plausible deniability but someone probaby decided to show off. The report contains all the details of what and where was secured by forensicand how it was assessed. A number of radiology experts analysed the samples coming to a conclusion that “the Po-210 used to poison Mr Litvinenko was made at the Avangard facility in Sarov, Russia. One of the isotope-producing reactors at the Mayak facility in Ozersk, Russia, was used or the initial irradiation of bismuth”. Paradoxically, because the trading of polonium in Russia (and global) is so stricly controlled and you simply cannot buy it on the market without active participation of a dozen of Russian agencies, the only logical explanation was that “the Russian state or its agents were responsible for the poisoning.”


      1. Well. in fact (and not so paradoxically perhaps) that whole “paradoxically … the only logical explanation” thingy (plus other things, like living easily detectable and long lasting traces everywhere, and Litvinenko being such a grotesque and irrelevant character) makes it perfectly obvious that it was a crude setup. Ordered by Berezovsky, I’m sure. And, if we want to be a bit more conspiratorial: probably organized by one Alex Goldfarb, the guy working for both Berezovsky and Soros…


  3. To engage in some shameless whataboutism, one can string together quite a number of coincidental deaths that turned out well for the Clintons, but then you’d be a “conspiracy nut” relegated to writing for “fringe” websites instead of a “respected Russia analyst” writing for the NYT and WSJ.


    1. The only “respected Russian analyst” out there today is Stephen Cohen. The rest are nothing more than political hacks and hatchetmen.


  4. Paul,

    The disregard of problematic evidence by the ‘NYT’ goes yet further.

    The figure at the rear bearing the coffin of Litvinenko, in the dramatic photograph the paper reproduces, is the film-maker Andrei Nekrasov.

    In addition to the film he made about Litvinenko, he was a key source in the first book-length study of the affair, the April 2007 study ‘The Litvinenko File’ by the former BBC Moscow Correspondent, Martin Sixsmith.

    More recently, however, he has made a film claiming that the whole Western ‘conventional wisdom’ about the death of Magnitsky is the product of ‘information operations.’

    (See .)

    A prudent person, I suggest, should, while not ignoring what Nekrasov said earlier or says now, treated his claims with very pronounced scepticism. And such scepticism is appropriately applied to all kinds of figures who may have ‘axes to grind’ in these matters.

    Moreover, it is also prudent to to be rigorously critical in assessing claims not just from Russian officials but Western – and also ‘evidence’ from organisations like Counter Terrorism Command (SO15), which cooperate closely with the intelligence services.

    To say scepticism was conspicuous by its absence in Sir Robert Owen’s report into the death of Litvinenko would be putting things mildly.

    Time and again, he simply accepted what SO15 and Litvinenko’s associates claimed, without taking any account whatsoever of the glaring contradictions between the claims these made to him and what they had earlier told Sixsmith and other journalists.

    It seem apposite to refer you – and others who may inclined to think that Sir Robert Owen’s report is credible – to comments of mine which Colonel Lang chose to use as a post on ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ following the publication of that document back in January.

    A great deal more material is covered in the exchanges of comments that followed, with links to a mass of relevant material on the case. If you or anyone else is interested in detailed substantiation of any claims I make, I am happy to supply it.

    (See .)

    From the post – with light corrections:

    ‘I am afraid Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry, and the media reception of it, marks a further stage in the consolidation of ‘Ingsoc’ in the U.K.

    ‘The charitable view of Sir Robert is that he is a judge in whom the propensity common to many of his kind automatically to believe the police and intelligence services, and to disregard the counter-claims of those they accuse, has reached a point of near insanity.

    ‘The uncharitable is that he is engaged in a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth.

    ‘These are not claims I make lightly.

    ‘Throughout, Sir Robert has conducted his investigation on the basis that the integrity of the investigation by Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) into Litvinenko’s death could be taken for granted.

    ‘He has done so despite the fact that claims by SO15 on crucial matters have changed with a frequency which makes those made by Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth’ look like models of consistency.

    ‘Take for instance the crucial claim that one can rule the possibility that Litvinenko knowingly had contact with polonium prior to his meeting with his supposed assassins, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, on the late afternoon of 1 November 2006.

    ‘The current version is summarised – and accepted without question – in section 6.274 of Owen’s report.

    ‘(See .)

    ‘According to the summary:

    ‘“Mr Litvinenko left home at about 12.30pm. He travelled into central London by bus and tube, arriving at Oxford Circus shortly after 1.30pm. The bus on which he travelled was subsequently identified and tested for radiation. No radiation was detected.”

    ‘According to the “evidence” on which Owen relies, the bus in question was a number 234, identified by Litvinenko’s Oyster Card – an electronic device which everyone who travels regularly on public transport in London uses.

    ‘Unfortunately, this account is new. Originally, it was suggested that Litvinenko was given a lift into central London by car. Then he was said to have travelled the whole distance on a number 134 bus (which also goes near his house) which was identified by a £1.50 ticket. Only in April 2007, in a book by the former BBC Moscow Correspondent Martin Sixsmith, did the Oyster Card appear, and the bus was still a 134.

    ‘In the August 2008 study by the “NYT” correspondent Alan Cowell, this became a 134 bus and unspecified tube. According to Sixsmith’s – vivid – account, Litvinenko arrived in central London at 11.30am – two hours earlier than the time now given.

    ‘None of the journalists involved appear to have bothered to check what their SO15 sources told them with what others had been told.

    ‘This is stenography, not journalism.

    ‘Most if not quite all of these discrepancies, together with a large number of similar ones, have been pointed out in memoranda supplied to the Inquiry team, starting back in September 2012. I have been assured by the Solicitor to the Inquiry, Martin Smith, that these memoranda have been read.

    ‘And it gets worse.

    ‘Although I am still reading through the report, it appears that Owen has chosen to accept the version according to which Litvinenko, together with associates like the Italian Mario Scaramella and their common collaborator Yuri Shvets, was engaged in bona fide attempts to uncover terrible truths about Putin and his “sistema”.

    ‘To do this, Owen both suppresses a vast mass of information, much of it unearthed by my Italian collaborator Mr David Loepp, and repeatedly drawn to the Inquiry team’s attention by myself, and makes highly selective use of the information he does accept into evidence.

    ‘A key document is a letter supplied to Scaramella by Litvinenko on 1 December 2005 for use by the so-called “Mitrokhin Commission”, of which my Italian collaborator Mr David Loepp obtained the full (Italian) version, and an abbreviated (English) version was presented at the Inquiry.

    ‘Not discussed by Sir Robert Owen, however, was a key claim in the letter: that the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich, while acting as an agent for the FSB and under Putin’s personal “krysha”, was attempting to obtain a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ for Al Qaeda. This was clearly an attempt to capitalise on the “suitcase nuke” hysteria.

    ‘At the time he and Scaramella were collaborating in disseminating this and similar claims – with the involvement of other figures, such as Oleg Gordievsky, Vladimir Bukovsky, Vladimir Rezun (aka “Viktor Suvorov”), and the former CIA operative Lou Palumbo – Litvinenko was, as we now know, an agent of MI6.

    ‘(See .)

    ‘This farrago was supported by material from the famous Melnichenko tapes, which were transcribed and disseminated by Shvets, the whole operation being funded by Boris Berezovsky. As is evident to anyone who has looked at all closely to them, what used to be the conventional wisdom – that the published excerpts were not edited – is patently false.

    ‘If you do not believe me, have a look at the key transcript, available at

    ‘Another key document which has surfaced at the Inquiry is an affidavit by Litvinenko taken in Tel Aviv by Michael Cotlick, a personal assistant to Berezovsky, in April 2006. This relates to a dossier circulated by Russian intelligence to Israeli, Italian, German and French intelligence – also U.S. intelligence as we know from other sources. This dossier made claims about Berezovsky’s supposed links to mobsters and Chechen guerillas.

    ‘In brief, the Litvinenko mystery is part and parcel of the larger story of claims and counter-claims about the relationship of, on the one side, both Russian oligarchs and Western intelligence services to jihadists, and on the other, the Russian security services to jihadists.

    ‘One can see these claims and counter-claims surfacing in a symposium on the well-known “neocon” site “” on 27 October 2006 – that is, at precisely the time polonium was being smuggled into London. In this symposium, which is full of hysteria about – palpably non-existent –“suitcase nukes”, what is clearly a polonium-beryllium initiator, which was also palpably non-existent, is identified as the key missing element required to make such a device functional.

    ‘(See .)’

    A couple of further points. As I stressed in the exchanges on SST, it is abundantly clear that the Russian security services are no more anxious to see the truth about how Litvinenko lived and died come out than their Western counterparts. That does not, however, provide any reason whatsoever for taking Owen’s report seriously.

    Moreover, as my remarks on SST brought out, Andrew Kramer’s ‘NYT’ colleague Alan Cowell must know that the accounts which were given to him glaringly contradict those provided to the court. So must a whole host of journalists in a similar situation.


    1. “Litvinenko knowingly had contact with polonium prior to his meeting with his supposed assassins”

      Yes, and also teleported to Hamburg and AeroFlot airplanes to leave polonium traces there. He also covertly entered Kovtun and Lugovoi hotel rooms in London to contaminate their bathrooms during their visits three weeks before his death.


      1. kravietz,

        1. What I have just told you is that there is the strongest possible of prima facie cases that key evidence – my example was the evidence supposed to show that a no 234 bus was identified by Litvinenko’s Oyster Card, tested by scientists from Aldermaston, and found to be clear of contamination – is forged. I can elaborate on this is you are still in doubt.

        If indeed the timeline for Litvinenko’s journey into central London on the day he was supposedly assassinated which was given by SO15 to the Inquiry had, as was claimed, been established by 27 November 2006, can you explain to me why it was never supplied to any journalist prior to the Inquiry?

        More specifically, can you explain why, in the first major investigative piece on the affair, published in the ‘Sunday Times’ on 3 December under the title ‘Cracking the code of the nuclear assassin’, a quite different timeline was given for Litvinenko’s movements on the day in question?

        (See .)

        Specifically, we were told that:

        ‘On the morning of November 1 Litvinenko was given a lift into the centre of London by car. No trace of polonium has been found in that vehicle – an indicator that Litvinenko had not yet been poisoned.’

        Note in addition that, according to SO15, they are supposed to have known by 27 November 2006 that Litvinenko did not leave his home until after midday on that day, and did not arrive in central London until 13.34.

        2. If you are remotely familiar with what Lugovoi, Kovtun and the Russian investigators have claimed, you will be aware that they have never denied that they were leaving radiation traces. A key question has always been, where the contamination originated.

        When on 29 August 2007 the pair gave a press conference by videolink to London, Lugovoi claimed that:

        ‘We flew on a Transaero plane on October 16, where no traces of polonium were found. But three hours after our arrival at the Erius company HQ at 25 Grosvenor St, if I’m not mistaken, large amounts of polonium were discovered. And after all that you claim that the traces are from Moscow.’

        (See .)

        This alibi was restated by Russian investigators when interviewed by the veteran American investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein, prior to the article he published in the ‘New York Sun’ in March 2008, under the title ‘The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko.’

        (See .)

        If one reflects on Lugovoi’s alibi, it will be obvious that it involves a self-incrimination.

        The obvious set of circumstances in which it could be true would be if someone – it is clearly implied Litvinenko, but need not have been – opened a container enclosing polonium at a meeting the two of them and Kovtun attended at Erinys (not Erius) International on 26 October for purposes other than to commit murder.

        It would be unlikely that this would be done without those present knowing what was happening.

        Accordingly, if Lugovoi had a convincing alibi on the greater charge of having deliberately assassinated Litvinenko, he would be unable to present it without admitting to at least knowledge of, and most probably some involvement in, a conspiracy to smuggle a highly dangerous radioactive isotope.

        There is no doubt that a container enclosing polonium was opened at the meeting on 16 October at Erinys. According to the evidence presented by SO15, this was as the result of an initial attempt to poison Litvinenko. Again, this version is new. It is not obviously more plausible than that given by Lugovoi.

        3. Another location where it is unambiguously clear major polonium contamination was present was in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square. As with the meeting at Erinys, it is clear that a container enclosing polonium was opened. Again, the question arises, as to whether this was the result of an attempt to assassinate Litvinenko, or for some other purpose.

        According to the evidence presented by SO15, in interviews conducted with DI Brent Hyatt on 18-20 November 2006, Litvinenko made clear that he had immediately suspected that he had been poisoned by tea from a teapot when he met Lugovoi and Kovtun on the late afternoon of 1 November.

        Notice that the teapot is the only forensic evidence that would definitively establish that the radiation traces arose from a deliberate poisoning attempt.

        4. Why then, in the timeline given in the ‘Sunday Times’ report, is it not even treated as established fact that Lugovoi and Kovtun met Litvinenko in the Pine Bar? The relevant paragraph:

        ‘His [Litvinenko’s] movements that day are the subject of dispute. According to Oleg Gordievsky, a friend of the victim and former KGB officer, Litvinenko met Lugovoi and Kovtun in the morning. Lugovoi and Kovtun, however, say this is not so: they met in the afternoon.’

        And then take the teapot. One might have expected that, as soon as they discovered that Litvinenko was likely to have been poisoned with polonium administered from a teapot – supposedly by 24 November 2006 – Scotland Yard would have taken immediate steps to test all teapots from the Pine Bar. (One does expect the Met to have some concern not to see ordinary members of the public poisoned.)

        I discussed the teapot at some length in the exchanges on SST. However, it seems worth reproducing the opening of the report in which this crucial item was first mentioned – an item by Brian Ross of ABC, on 26 January 2007 (more than two months after it was supposedly identified by Litvinenko):

        ‘British officials say police have cracked the murder-by-poison case of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, including the discovery of a “hot” teapot at London’s Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for Polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing.

        ‘A senior official tells ABC News the “hot” teapot remained in use at the hotel for several weeks after Litvinenko’s death before being tested in the second week of December. The official said investigators were embarrassed at the oversight.

        ‘The official says investigators have concluded, based on forensic evidence and intelligence reports, that the murder was a “state-sponsored” assassination orchestrated by Russian security services.’

        (See .)

        5. Then add into the picture a piece in ‘Izvestiya’ on 1 December, which shows every sign of being sourced from elements in Russian intelligence.

        ( .)

        A number of elements about this piece are interesting. One is that its sources were quite prepared to, as it were, drop Lugovoi in it.

        His whole alibi had revolved around the fact that contamination had been reported at the Itsu sushi bar, where Litvinenko met Scaramella in the mid-afternoon of 1 November 2006. So, by refusing to acknowledge any morning meeting, and bringing up that in the Pine Bar, which unambiguously happened after the meeting at the Itsu, Lugovoi could suggest that the contamination trail could not implicate him.

        However, the sources of the ‘Izvestiya’ piece mentioned a meeting between Lugovoi and Kovtun prior that at the Itsu – just as Gordievsky did. And, like SO15 at this point, did not acknowledge any meeting at the Pine Bar.

        Why the sources for the ‘Izvestiya’ report did this seems clear: it was their belief that SO15 would have to come to a timeline which implicated Litvinenko and Berezovsky in smuggling polonium. And they were cock-a-hoop at the prospect.

        At this point, nobody apart from Lugovoi and Kovtun wanted to focus on the Pine Bar meeting. This only changed, when in the week following the ‘Sunday Times’ report, it became clear that the scale of contamination at that location was such that it had to be made public.

        6. It was only when it became apparent that a major health hazard had been caused that, bizarrely, the competing security services acquired a disguised common interest in concealing what had actually been happening.

        On the British side, in order to avoid the timeline implicating Litvinenko and Berezovsky, it was necessary to obscure the fact that an earlier meeting between Lugovoi and Litvinenko had in fact taken place.

        It was also necessary to readjust the story so as to deny that Scaramella had been contaminated. And then, finally, it was necessary to fake the evidence of the teapot. Last but not least, it was necessary to forge the interviews with Litvinenko.

        On the Russian side, the eventual preferred solution has been to claim that Litvinenko’s incrimination of Scaramella should be taken at face value, which is ludicrous.

        (See .)


      2. I would appreciate if you prefer quality over quantity. Amounts of polonium found in Kovtun and Lugovoi hotel rooms were so enormous, that they could be only left by pouring a whole vial into the sink. They also spilled it and used towels, which also were extremely contaminated. This pattern repeated on their two trips in October and the fatal one in November. Polonium traces were also found on all their flights from Moscow to Heathrow. You also forgot Hamburg. Seriously, just go and read the report rather than blogs.


  5. kravietz,

    What I have just suggested to you is that there is the strongest possible prima facie case that the test results on the no 234 bus and the teapot were forged.

    You have not even attempted to refute my arguments, or to ask for the detailed evidence on which they are based. I am happy to supply it.

    Obviously, if my case stands up, then one cannot simply take for granted that claims about the test results on the rooms occupied by Lugovoi and Kovtun are reliable.

    You write:

    ‘Polonium traces were also found on all their flights from Moscow to Heathrow.’

    It would seem you have not read the report, or followed the press coverage of this case at all closely.

    It has never — ever — been suggested that the British authorities tested the Transaero plane – registration number EI-DDK – on which Lugovoi and Kovtun flew into Heathrow on 16 October 2006.

    Accounts of what Transaero planes they did or did not test have varied, if not by quite as much as the accounts of the tests on the car/134/234 bus which brought Litvinenko in central London on the morning/afternoon of 1 November 2006.

    However, in his opening statement to the Inquiry, Robin Tam QC, Counsel to the Inquest, could not even get the airline right.

    (See .)

    Discussing the contamination traces on the aircraft used by Lugovoi and Kovtun, Tam explained:

    ‘Of all these aircraft, the most significant might have been the plane on which Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun flew to London on 16 October; that is at the start of the first visit. However, this was an Aeroflot aircraft and it has never been made available for testing by British scientists. We will hear evidence as to the requests that have been made in this regard.’

    I now regret that I pointed out to the Solicitor to the Inquest that the aircraft in question was not operated by Aeroflot but by Transaero, enabling them to correct their error. It would have been interesting to see what kind of tangle they would have got themselves into, if the error had not been corrected.


    1. Report paragraph 6.67 mentions Transaero not Aeroflot. EI-DDK was indeed not tested by British authorities because after they notified Russia about possible contamination it was immediately prevented from returning to UK, and they lied about test results of the other plane EI-DNM (6.69). (with Dmitry Kiselev’s voice) Coincidence? I don’t think so…


      1. According to the report , on October 16, the only primary radiation patches were found near to Lugovoi’s seat at Erinys (6.96). But most importantly, primary patches were found in Lugovoi’s hotel room (6.110). Similar primary patch has been also found in the room occupied by Kovtun on 1 November (6.111).


  6. kravietz,

    Of course the report said that the plane which brought Lugovoi and Kovtun into London on 16 October 2016 was operated by Transaero. As I explained to you, this was because I corrected the error made in Robin Tam’s opening statement.

    If you think I am fabricating, I can only quote the response I had on 2 February 2015 from the Solicitor to the Inquiry, Martin Smith, to the e-mails I sent to SO15, copying them to him and his team, pointing out this quite extraordinary error:

    ‘Dear Mr Habbakuk

    ‘Thank you for your copy emails dated 30 and 31 January 2015 and for pointing out what appears to have been a simple error in the reference made to the airline on which Lugovoy and Kovtun flew. The error will be corrected either by Mr Tam or through the evidence given to the inquiry in the next few days.

    ‘I confirm that all of all the correspondence you have provided over the years has been forwarded to and considered by Counsel to the Inquiry and also by Sir Robert where appropriate. When you send it to officers of the MPS, my understanding is that it is also considered carefully by them.’

    I am quite happy, if you or anybody else is interested, to forward the original e-mails in question.

    The manifold contradictions in the claims made about tests on the Transaero planes were one of many such matters which I had treated at some length in ‘all the correspondence you have provided over the years’, as Smith termed it.

    I will not go into detail here. However, I suggest you might usefully have a look at paragraph 6.69d of Owen’s report, in which one finds the following explanation:

    ‘In fact, aircraft EI-DNM flew into Heathrow on that day, 1 December 2006, and was tested for contamination by AWE scientists. They discovered secondary alpha radiation contamination in the area of the seats on which Mr Kovtun and Mr Lugovoy had sat on the flight on 18 October.’

    If you look at the schedule of items received at Aldermaston provided by ‘ScientistA1’, you will find a ‘Smear from back of headrest, seat 25D’ on this plane listed as received at 20:35 on 2 December 2006.


    Perhaps you will explain to me why it was never claimed, prior to the Inquiry, that EI-DNK had been tested and found to be contaminated.

    And perhaps you will also explain why in a Guardian report on 4 December 2006, one finds the following explanation, in relation to this flight:

    ‘Subsequent tests have shown that the Transaero aircraft was not contaminated by polonium-210, and nor was the hotel where Mr Lugovoi stayed on his first visit.’

    (See .)

    So it seems that the Russians were not the only ones to lie about the test results on EI-DNM.

    You then refer me to the forensic evidence supposed to establish that an initial assassination attempt was made at the meeting at Erinys on 16 October 2006.

    Again, this claim is completely new. On this, and other matters, I would refer you to the transcript of the BBC ‘Panorama’ programme, ‘How to poison a spy’, broadcast on 22 January 2007, which was entered into evidence in the Inquiry.

    (See .)

    First observation: It is clearly stated by the BBC that Litvinenko left his home in the late morning, and that ‘Litvinenko caught the 134 on November the 1st. No trace of Polonium on his ticket or the bus. He was clean.’

    So, the vehicle is not a car, as it was in the 3 December 2006 report, but it is not a 234 bus, as it would be in the evidence presented to the Inquiry. And it was, supposedly, identified by a ticket, not an Oyster Card.

    Accordingly, the case that the Oyster Card record is a forgery gets even stronger. Overwhelming, one might say. Can you produce any credible counter to my arguments about these rather crucial matters?

    In addition, while we are told by the BBC that tests established that ‘The cup that contained the tea, contaminated’, there is no mention whatsoever of a teapot.

    If you go back to the schedule of items received at Aldermaston, you will see that both the teapot from the Pine Bar, and a teacup, are listed as having been received on 16 December 2006.

    Curious, is it not, that there is no mention of a teapot until 26 January 2007, but one finds a report entitled ‘Traces of spy poison found in cup at hotel’ in the ‘Telegraph’ on 9 December 2006?

    (See .)

    Apparently, SO15 saw fit to go public with claims about the results of tests on the teacup, a week before the Aldermaston scientists were even in a position to perform these.

    Another fascinating feature of the ‘Panorama’ programme is that the supposed initial attempt to poison Litvinenko is not located at the meeting at Erinys, but at the visit by Litvinenko, Lugovoi and Kovtun to the Itsu sushi bar following it. I quote:

    ‘During this earlier trip Lugovoi and Kovtun meet Litvinenko for lunch in his usual place, the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly. The restaurant, contaminated, but not at the same seats which Scaramella and Litvinenko would use two weeks later. Could this have been the first attempt to kill him?’

    In his report, Owen – I have difficulty dignifying this creature with the title of knight – both accepted the completely new version according to which a preliminary assassination attempt was made at the meeting at Erinys, and also the claim that the contamination at the Itsu cannot have resulted from the visit by Scaramella and Litvinenko on 1 November.

    His reasoning in relation to the contamination at the Itsu, in paragraph 6.101, seems worth quoting at some length:

    ‘Importantly, the table at which the secondary contamination was found was not that at which (according to the evidence of Mr Scaramella) Mr Litvinenko sat with Mr Scaramella on 1 November. Given the primary contamination at the Erinys boardroom, it is a reasonable inference that the secondary contamination found at itsu was left by Mr Lugovoy, Mr Kovtun and/or Mr Litvinenko at the time of their visit on 16 October.’

    Simply to accept Scaramella’s account of where he and Litvinenko sat is clearly preposterous.

    Frankly, Owen is one of the best arguments I have come across against capital punishment. To think of how many cases in which he could have put on the black cap, and sent people to the gallows, on evidence as frivolous as that on the basis of which he has indicted Lugovoi and Kovtun, and also Putin, of pioneering nuclear terrorism, is terrifying.

    Of course, the Russian authorities have told a whole pack of lies about this whole affair.

    But, in the old days, even if people like myself we were of a somewhat cynical disposition, we used to give some credence to the notion that we in Britain lived in a ‘Rechstaat’, to use the German phrase, where – by contrast to the situation prevailing in the Soviet Union – the apparatus of law and order had at least some meaningful independence of the security services.

    And at that point, it did indeed seem reasonable to think that there was a meaningful contrast between the independence and integrity of the mainstream media in the West, and the behaviour of their counterparts on the Soviet side.

    A time long gone, I am afraid. The likes of Owen and Luke Harding have made our old happy complacency unsustainable, for anyone of intelligence and integrity.


    1. I’m sorry but it’s really difficult to discuss – or even read – such amount of text with so many threads and digressions on such a constrained space. If you wanted to flood me with arguments, you won – literally! Specifically, I’m not even bothering to read these countless news reports which, appearing at different times and based on different sources, bring more confusion that useful information. You are also consequently ignoring Hamburg!


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