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Spy vs. Spy.
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Spy vs. Spy • “Imagine you were a foreign power that wanted to get rid of a dissident who had set up home in London. Would you a) push the trouble maker under a bus, b) have him mown down by a hit-and-run driver or c) arrange for him to be poisoned while eating in a crowded restaurant?” ~ The Guardian – 21 Nov. 2006
Alexander Litvinenko • Former KGB Agent • Former FSB Colonel • Current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, former head of FSB • Investigated corruption of police • Outspoken critic of the policies of the FSB/KGB as well as of the Kremlin
Alexander Litvinenko • Fled to the UK in 2000 and gained political asylum • Attempted to publish a book in 2003 detailing the transformation of the FSB into a criminal organization • Died on November 23, 2006 in London due to Polonium-210 poisoning • Considered first act of “nuclear terrorism”
Timeline • 1998 - Claimed to have been ordered to murder billionaire tycoon, Boris Berezovsky • 1999 - Accused FSB of Moscow apartment bombings • 2002-2003 – Attempts to publish two different books implicating the FSB and the Kremlin in criminal activities
Timeline • 2006 • 1 November – Meets Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun at a London hotel. Also meets Mario Scaramella where he received documents about Politkovskaya’s death. Feels sick in evening. • 3 November – Admitted to Barnet General Hospital. • 11 November – Very bad shape after serious poisoning. • 17 November – Transferred to University College Hospital
Timeline • 20 November – Moved to intensive care • 21 November – Diagnosed as poisoned with radioactive Thallium • 22 November – Russia government denies involvement in poisoning • 23 November – Litvinenko dies
Timeline • November 24 – Statement made from deathbed released to the public. Accused Putin of his death, calling him “barbaric and ruthless.” Statement was typed in English—a language which Litvinenko did not speak. • Polonium-210 identified.
Prime Suspects • Putin Lugovoi Kovtun Berezovski
Putin's agents and a licence to kill • The plight of Alexander Litvinenko is not a scene from a film or a story from the past. It is from London in 2006….It's not just that the KGB's old habits of disinformation and mischief-making are still with us, but that the organisation's tentacles reach as far and formidably as ever. And who better to supervise this than the taciturn, foulmouthed KGB Lieutenant-General Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
Dangers that stalk the enemies of Putin • There is no evidence that President Vladimir Putin is personally complicit in the tragedies that sometimes befall his enemies, but vocal opponents of his policies do have a habit of being caught up in often extreme "personal difficulties".
The spy who wouldn't die - Russian assassin plot • Ex-secret police colleagues are believed to have injected his meal with thallium, a highly-toxic colourless and odourless chemical, before it reached his table at Itsu. • Last night Britain and Russia were on the brink of a diplomatic crisis, with Foreign Office chiefs anxiously waiting to see if Scotland Yard could confirm whether agents were involved.If so, it could trigger the biggest bust-up between the countries since President Vladimir Putin came to power.
Daily Mail • Terrible effects of poison on Russian spy shown in first pictures • “While the pictures undoubtedly illustrate the extraordinary pain Mr Litvinenko is going through, they will also be used to embarrass the Russian government. • “The pictures of Mr Litvinenko were released to the media yesterday by one of Britain’s leading public relations firms.”
Misc. Headlines • Independent on Sunday: Russian defector poisoned in London 'on orders of Moscow' • The Mail on Sunday (United Kingdom): KGB 'try to poison man' in sushi bar
Russian Media • Where British press has run over 1500 stories about Litvinenko since his poisoning, Russian media has run only a few over 100. • Litvinenko case: Russia might sue media for libel
Russian Media Voice of Russia – State-run radio station. • Website featured no news about Litvinenko’s poisoning or death • Focused on stories about scandals and corruption in UK and US politics
Russian Media • Mayak National Network – Story went mostly unreported. • Channel One / Rossiya – Russia’s two leading television channels reported next to nothing. Bulletins that were aired noted particularly that Litvinenko had been convicted of treason two years following his self-exile.
Dangerous Journalism • Stories which may embarrass Putin, the Kremlin, or other federal organizations are closely monitored. • In the past 15 years, 44 journalists have been murdered in Russia (3rd most dangerous nation for journalists).
Dangerous Journalism • Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in October 2006. • She was a lead reporter of the Chechnya War, and a supporter of human rights and journalistic freedom. • It was her death which Litvinenko was presumably investigating at the time of his own death.
Russian Twist • Primary conspiracy theory in Russian media—Berezovsky ordered Litvinenko’s (and possibly Politkovskaya’s) death in order to deal a blow to Putin’s reputation.
Investigations • Investigations have been ongoing since the moment of the poisoning. • The Scotland Yard police are working with Russian investigators to track down the guilty parties • Currently, more and more evidence seems to point back to Andrei Lugovoi (associate of Berezovsky).
Questions • Was the media correct in appointing conclusive blame without appropriate evidence? • Should more care have been taken with the editing of the stories in order to eliminate political bias?