UK judge will open inquest in new year into poisoning death of ex-Russian agent Litvinenko
Kremlin critic and author of the book “Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within”, poses for a photograph at his home in London. An inquest into the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko should take place early next year and will likely consider whether Russian authorities were involved, a senior British judge said Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.
(Alistair Fuller, File/ Associated Press ) - FILE - In this May 10, 2002 file photo, Alexander Litvinenko, Kremlin critic and author of the book “Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within”, poses for a photograph at his home in London. An inquest into the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko should take place early next year and will likely consider whether Russian authorities were involved, a senior British judge said Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.
(Cathal McNaughton, Pool-File/ Associated Press ) - FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2006 file photo, the coffin of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko is carried during his funeral at Highgate Cemetery in north London. An inquest into the death of Litvinenko should take place early next year and will likely consider whether Russian authorities were involved, a senior British judge said Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.
By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, September 20, 9:25 AM
LONDON — A long-awaited inquest into the poisoning death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko should consider whether Russian authorities were involved, the senior British judge who will oversee it said Thursday. But the U.K. government will not let lawyers for the victim’s family and the suspects see a report on alleged links between Litvinenko and British intelligence.
Litvinenko’s family believes the Kremlin was behind his death from radioactive poisoning in London in November 2006. The former security service officer, a critic of the Kremlin, died after drinking tea laced with the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 at a London hotel.
Bubble artist Melody Yang looks through bubbles she created on a table during a demonstration in Vancouver, British Columbia September 19, 2012. The demonstration was prior to her father Fan attempting a world record for the number of people inside a bubble. REUTERS/Andy Clark (CANADA - Tags: SOCIETY)
On his deathbed, he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind his poisoning.
Ben Emmerson, a lawyer for Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, told a court hearing that it was vital that the inquest investigate “the criminal role of the Russian state.”
Emmerson said that if official Russian involvement was proved, it would constitute “an act of state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London.”
Judge Robert Owen, who will lead the inquest, said its scope would be decided at a later hearing, but indicated he was inclined to agree it should look at Russia’s alleged role.
Owen said it was “to be regretted” that no inquest has been held in the nearly six years since the former security service officer died. Owen said he would open his inquest as early in 2013 as possible.
The killing cast a pall over U.K.-Russian relations that still persists. British prosecutors have accused two Russians, Alexander Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, of killing Litvinenko, but Russia refuses to hand them over. Lugovoi is now a Russian lawmaker.
Lawyer Hugh Davies, the inquest’s counsel, said the judge-led inquiry should be a “full and fearless” examination of all the facts.
But he said some evidence will be withheld at the request of the British government.
Davies said all interested parties, including lawyers for the Litvinenko family, Lugovoi and the British government, would be given a police report into Litvinenko’s death before the inquest begins. One section, however, will be censored — the results of police inquiries into whether Litvinenko was in contact with Britain’s MI6 intelligence service.
Davies said the judge and the inquiry’s lawyers had seen the full report. The redaction, at the British government’s request, “should not be taken as indicating one way or another” whether Litvinenko had dealings with British spies.
The judge set another pre-inquest hearing for Nov. 2.
In Britain, an inquest is held to determine the facts whenever someone dies unexpectedly, violently or in disputed circumstances. They do not determine criminal liability.
Outside court, Marina Litvinenko she was confident she would get justice from the inquest.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a woman who lost her husband and I want to know what happened,” she said.
Alexander Litvinenko inquest 'may look at MI6 role'
BBC 2 November 2012 Last updated at 17:03 GMT
The inquest into the death of murdered Russian former spy Alexander Litvinenko could examine the possible role of British spies in his death.
MI6 and the Russian secret service, the FSB, may become "interested parties", a pre-inquest review has heard. The inquest is set to be held as soon as possible next year.
Mr Litvinenko, 43, is thought to have been poisoned with polonium-210 after meeting two Russians for tea at a central London hotel in November 2006.
The pre-inquest review was held on Friday at Camden Town Hall, in north London. Hugh Davies, counsel to the inquest, said it could extend to include "the possible culpability of the Russian state", as well as "the possible culpability of the British state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko either: one, in carrying out by itself or its agents the poisoning; or two, failing to take reasonable steps to protect Mr Litvinenko from a real and immediate risk to his life".
Startling New Twist in Litvinenko Death Case
By William Dunkerley
General News 11/13/2012 at 12:56:12
The British inquiry into the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko has taken a dramatic turn in direction. Just two months ago the London coroner appeared focused on investigating alleged Russian state involvement in the death, and on steadfastly upholding MI5/MI6 secrecy about the case.
But a November 2 hearing conducted by coroner Sir Robert Owen has thrown things wide open. Earlier he seemed intent only on following a trail back to Moscow. Now, he's apparently changed his mind. Multiple additional theories of culpability have been put on the table, including that of the British state.
The Litvinenko affair has been a high-profile international murder mystery ever since the subject's death by poisoning in London. Accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind it fueled intense media attention. The general storyline is that Litvinenko was a former spy murdered by radioactive polonium on orders of Putin, who allegedly wanted him silenced.
Careful independent analysis, however, has shown that the mainstream media narrative of the case was fabricated and has no factual basis. It's never been officially determined that Litvinenko was even murdered. And, there's no reliable evidence that he was ever a spy. The media accounts on those issues are specious.
It has been reported that the manufactured story was spread by people connected to Boris Berezovsky. They apparently concocted the tale of espionage, revenge, and murder, and fed it to unsuspecting media outlets hungry for a juicy story. I've documented all this in my book, The Phony Litvinenko Murder (http://www.omnicompress.com/plm).
Berezovsky is a wealthy arch-enemy of Putin's who resides in London, hiding from criminal convictions back in Russia. He is an erstwhile Putin ally turned outspoken critic. Berezovsky is reported to be organizing a revolution to overthrow Putin by force and replace the constitution.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that the London coroner has done a turnabout in the death inquiry. The Litvinenko case has been full of unexpected twists and turns. At first, Litvinenko said he believed an Italian named Mario Scaramella had poisoned him. Then after Litvinenko died, a well publicized deathbed statement appeared accusing Putin. Alexander Goldfarb, an associate of Berezovsky's, claimed Litvinenko dictated it to him on his deathbed. Later, Goldfarb confessed it was he who wrote the words, not Litvinenko.
In 2011, then coroner Andrew Reid had ruled that "the whole purpose of the inquest is to investigate the credibility of the competing theories." But the only theory given prominence was Berezovsky's contention that Putin was behind the alleged murder. In an August 2012 civil decision involving Berezovsky, the High Court judge ruled that Berezovsky is 'inherently unreliable.' Wouldn't that mean that his theory in the Litvinenko case could not be relied upon?
That left things looking like there was really no reason for the inquest. If there were no competing theories to investigate, why were the British going to spend a reported $6 million on a seemingly pointless inquest? Was there an ulterior motive?
Now that the inquiry is wide open, what could explain the marked change in direction? The previous hearing held on September 20 seemingly affirmed a demand for a "criminal investigation of the Russian state." No other specific targets of investigation were mentioned.
At the November hearing, however, a long list of possible targets suddenly appeared. It includes: Mario Scaramella, Boris Berezovsky, the Spanish Mafia, Chechen-related groups, and the British state itself. The coroner will also consider whether suicide or an accident might be involved. What a change from just suspecting Putin!
Even the transcript of that hearing, however, provided no clues as to why the hyper focus on Russia was dropped.
One possible intervening event did occur between the September and November hearings. An October article in Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's largest newspaper, accused the coroner's inquiry of appearing rigged against Russia.
In the article, Alexei Pankin, one of the country's most distinguished journalists, interviewed me on the results of my research. I explained how the original coroner on the case, Andrew Reid, had been suspiciously removed from the inquiry. I also described collusive-appearing intersections between the prosecutor who formulated Britain's allegations of Russian state involvement, and people connected to Berezovsky.
There had been no explanation of why after six years there hadn't been a conclusion on whether or not Litvinenko's death was a homicide, I pointed out, adding, "I would be very surprised if the coroner arrives at an honest verdict. The inquest procedure has telltale signs of being rigged."
That Komsomolskaya Pravda interview was also picked up internationally by several prominent English language news outlets.
Less than two weeks later, Coroner Owen surprisingly threw open the scope of the inquiry. Suddenly there is a multitude of competing theories ripe for investigation, not just Berezovsky's. The exclusively Russian focus is gone. Owen understandably may not want to follow in Reid's footsteps.
It's curious that Reid had focused on such a narrow scope. At his October 2011 hearing he seemed to proclaim a mandate to investigate "the alleged criminal role of the Russian state." But the charter of the coroner's office specifically forbids it from determining criminal liability.
It is clear that the Berezovsky camp is pushing for the coroner to pursue the Russian state. The widow Litvinenko, who is closely associated with Berezovsky, urged Coroner Owen to endorse Reid's position. But Owen demurred, saying "the scope is a matter that I have continually to review in the light of the information and material that I see." Perhaps Reid had been bamboozled into undertaking an investigation that was not his business. Good for Owen for getting straight on that one.
Russian State Role Seen in Death of Poisoned Spy
By ALAN COWELL
Published: December 13, 2012
LONDON — New testimony that emerged Thursday deepened the intrigue surrounding the death of the former K.G.B. officer Alexander V. Litvinenko, offering “prima facie” evidence of Russian state involvement and indicating that he had been a paid agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, lawyers at a preliminary inquest hearing said.
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The accusations evoked the murky world of rumor, claim and counterclaim in which Mr. Litvinenko appeared to operate before his death in November 2006 and raised questions about his role in the twilight arena of competing intelligence services.
Mr. Litvinenko died after ingesting a rare and highly toxic radioactive isotope, polonium 210, which British investigators later traced to a pot of tea served to him at an upscale hotel in Grosvenor Square, opposite the American Embassy in central London. British prosecutors have charged another former K.G.B. operative, Andrei K. Lugovoi, with the killing. Mr. Lugovoi has denied the charge.
The potentially explosive assertions were made at a procedural hearing before a full inquest, set for May 2013, into Mr. Litvinenko’s death.
In a statement composed on his deathbed, Mr. Litvinenko accused the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin of responsibility for his death.
Hugh Davies, a lawyer acting for the inquest, said evidence provided by the British government had established a “prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko.”
The charge is certain to infuriate the Kremlin, which has denied involvement but sheltered Mr. Lugovoi from a British demand for his extradition.
Neither the Russian authorities nor Mr. Lugovoi offered any immediate response to the accusation on Thursday. Mr. Litvinenko’s adversaries had long depicted him as an agent of British intelligence, accusing him of trying to recruit Mr. Lugovoi. But the details of his role had not been enumerated publicly until the hearing on Thursday.
Ben Emmerson, a lawyer representing Mr. Litvinenko’s widow, Marina Litvinenko, said that Mr. Litvinenko, who fled to Britain in 2000 and became a British citizen weeks before his death, had for some years been a “registered and paid agent and employee of MI6, with a dedicated handler whose pseudonym was Martin.”
He would meet his handler in central London, Mr. Emmerson said, and discuss the encounters with his wife.
Mr. Litvinenko also worked for the Spanish intelligence service, Mr. Emmerson said, and both the British and Spanish spy agencies made payments into a joint account with his wife. He added that the inquest next year should consider whether MI6 failed in its duty to protect him against a “real and immediate risk to life.”
Mr. Litvinenko’s contacts and meetings with Mr. Lugovoi have been documented in the past, but there seemed to be a further twist to their relationship, according to Mr. Emmerson, who said the two former K.G.B. officers had been scheduled to travel together to Spain to give evidence to the Spanish security services about possible links between Russian organized crime and the Kremlin.
A lawyer for the British authorities, Neil Garnham, said he could neither confirm nor deny whether Mr. Litvinenko had been a British agent.
Mr. Litvinenko was also a close associate of the self-exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, another of Mr. Putin’s adversaries. Hugo Keith, a lawyer acting for Mr. Berezovsky, denied any involvement by his client.
“It’s not open to an individual to get polonium 210,” he said. “The suggestion that Mr. Berezovsky is responsible is implausible.”
The death of Mr. Litvinenko deeply strained the relationship between Russia and Britain, and the new testimony set the stage for highly contentious hearings in May, at which both governments may be forced to deal with unwelcome questions about what their security services knew about events leading to the killing.
Litvinenko inquest: newspapers launch challenge over withholding of evidence
Media groups including Guardian will challenge government over attempt to conceal sensitive documents
guardian.co.uk, Monday 25 February 2013 09.27 EST
Alexander Litvinenko pictured shortly before his death in 2006. Photograph: Natasja Weitsz/Getty Images
Media groups will on Tuesday challenge what they describe as a "deeply troubling" attempt by the government to withhold evidence from the inquest into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
The Guardian, the BBC, the Financial Times and other newspapers are challenging a submission by the foreign secretary, William Hague, to conceal sensitive documents. Hague argues the material could harm "national security", as well as the UK's "international relations".
The government has refused to say what evidence it wants to hide. But it is likely to deal with revelations made at a hearing in December that at the time of his poisoning in November 2006 Litvinenko was actively working for the British secret services.
Litvinenko was also a "paid agent" of the Spanish security services. MI6 encouraged him to supply information to the Spanish about Russian mafia activities, and alleged links between top organised criminals and the Kremlin, the hearing was told.
Litvinenko travelled to Spain in 2006 and met his MI6 handler, "Martin", shortly before his fateful encounter with Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the two men accused of killing him. The inquest – scheduled to begin in May – will hear claims that the pair were part of a "Russian state" plot to murder Litvinenko using radioactive polonium.
The fact that Litvinenko – a former Russian spy – was working for MI6 raises embarrassing questions as to whether British intelligence should have done more to protect him. Litvinenko had a dedicated phone to contact "Martin" and received regular payments to his bank account from MI6 and Madrid, it emerged in December.
In making their submission to the coroner, Sir Robert Owen, on Tuesday, the media groups will seek to argue that Hague's attempt to withhold evidence could undermine public confidence in the inquest. Currently the media – as well as Litvinenko's widow, Marina, and son, Anatoly, – are "completely in the dark" over what material the FCO seeks to exclude.
The media groups will seek to persuade the coroner that the government has also failed to explain what "harm" the release of the information might cause. Nor has it properly considered "lesser measures", such as redaction, which would allow some disclosure of sensitive documents, or the possibility of closed sessions.
Alex Bailin QC, the lawyer acting for the Guardian, will argue that "the public and media are faced with a situation where a public inquest into a death … may have large amounts of highly relevant evidence excluded from consideration by the inquest. Such a prospect is deeply troubling."
There are grave public concerns that allegations of "state-sponsored assassination" on the streets of London require "maximum openness". Additionally, the inquest is likely to be the only judicial forum where evidence will be heard, since the Kremlin has refused to extradite Lugovoi and Kovtun.
Speaking on Monday, Litvinenko's friend Alex Goldfarb said the foreign secretary appeared unwilling to offend Russia's "vindictive" president. Goldfarb told the Guardian: "I recognise that Mr Hague has a well-founded interest not to rock the boat with [Vladimir] Putin. He's afraid. He's afraid Putin will not vote the way he wants in the UN or squeeze Britain's interests."
He added: "The inquest is a balance between the interests of international relations and justice. The bottom line is how far do you compromise with your own justice and decency, and the benefits from doing business with arrogant, murderous and dictatorial foreign states?"
Goldfarb said forensic evidence and reports from Scotland Yard had already been disclosed to interested parties. But he said he was worried the government wanted to keep secret highly sensitive documents showing links between Russian mobsters in Spain and "Putin's inner circle". "That's what Sasha [Litvinenko] was up to," Goldfarb said.
An FCO spokesperson said: "The government has made an application to the court for public interest immunity in line with its duty to protect national security and the coroner is responsible for deciding that application based on the overall public interest."
Owen is due to hear submissions from the media at a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday. He has previously indicated that he wants the inquest to be as open and broad as possible.
British judge to hold secret hearing to assess evidence about poisoned Russian agent
Matt Dunham, file/Associated Press - FILE - Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, arrives for the first day of a scheduled two-day Pre-Inquest Review at Camden Town Hall in London, in this Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 file photo. British media organizations are challenging a government secrecy bid for parts of the inquest into the death of a former Russian intelligence agent poisoned in London. Alexander Litvinenko died in a London hospital in 2006, with the rare radioactive substance polonium-210 being found in his body.
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By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 11:59 AM
LONDON — A British judge said Wednesday that he will hold a secret hearing to assess whether some evidence about the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko should be kept from the public.
Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence officer turned Kremlin critic, died in London in November 2006 after drinking tea spiked with the radioactive isotope polonium-210. His family says he was working for Britain’s intelligence services, and believes the Russian state was behind his death.
Moscow authorities deny the claim, and refuse to extradite for trial two Russians identified by British authorities as the prime suspects in the killing.
Judge Robert Owen is due to oversee a coroner’s inquest. Such inquests are held to determine the facts about violent or unexplained deaths.
Britain’s government wants some evidence kept secret for national security reasons, a move opposed by Litvinenko’s family and several media outlets.
A lawyer for Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, complained Tuesday that the family and legal team do not even know what material the government wants to restrict.
“We are dancing in the dark,” attorney Ben Emmerson said, accusing the British and Russian governments of conspiring to stop the truth from coming out.
Owen said Wednesday that he would examine that evidence behind closed doors, but promised to give the government request the “most stringent and critical examination.” He said he could make the evidence public if he was not convinced of the government’s case.
“It is my duty to carry out a full, fearless and independent investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mr. Litvinenko,” the judge said. “That, I intend to do.”
The inquest had been due to start May 1, but Owen conceded Tuesday that it would likely be postponed.
Litvinenko inquest: UK, Russia 'conspiring for trade'
Britain and Russia are conspiring to shut down the inquest into the death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko to preserve trade interests, a lawyer for his widow has said.
Foreign Secretary William Hague wants to exclude sensitive details relating to the former KGB agent's ties to MI6, a pre-inquest review was told.
But counsel for Marina Litvinenko said claims they posed a serious risk of harm to the public were wrong.
Mr Litvinenko died in London in 2006.
The 43-year-old was poisoned with polonium-210 while drinking tea, allegedly at a meeting with two Russians - former KGB contacts Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun - at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square.
Ben Emmerson QC, representing Marina Litvinenko, said the Foreign Secretary's grounds for signing a public interest immunity (PII) certificate to prevent certain details relating to the case from being placed in open court for security reasons should be treated with the "greatest degree of scepticism".
Security correspondent, BBC News
The last pre-inquest hearing contained a major revelation - namely that Alexander Litvinenko had been a paid agent of MI6.
It raised the question over whether this work was linked to his death.
That has pushed Mr Litvinenko's relationship with British intelligence much higher up the agenda.
But how much will we learn about that relationship?
That's the subject of Tuesday's hearing in which the government is applying for a broad public interest immunity certificate that would mean that information considered sensitive could be excluded.
Attempts to withhold evidence pointed towards a conspiracy at the highest levels of government, he said.
Almost no details of what areas the government wanted covered by the certificate had been disclosed, and if material suggesting the Russian state was behind the killing was withheld it would defeat the purpose of the inquest.
"The British government, like the Russian government, is conspiring to get this inquest closed down in exchange for substantial trade interests which we know (Prime Minister David) Cameron is pursuing," he said.
"We know nothing about why these applications are being made and we are dancing in the dark."
He also said the process was delaying the inquest. It was due to formally open on May 1, more than six years after Mr Litvinenko died.
The pre-inquest review, presided over by Sir Robert Owen, a judge sitting as coroner, is looking into the scope of the inquest into his death.
The PII application is being opposed by lawyers for Mr Litvinenko's widow, Marina, as well as media organisations, including the BBC.
Mr Emmerson said it was "probable" Mr Litvinenko's death had involved the Russian state.
He also told the coroner he should not allow the process to be "bogged down" by the "government's attempt to keep a lid on the truth".
At an earlier pre-inquest hearing, Mr Emmerson said the Russian had been a paid agent of MI6 and argued the inquest should examine the secret service's relationship with him.
Sir Robert has said he will examine what was known of threats to Mr Litvinenko's life and also whether the Russian state was responsible for his death.
He has also agreed that a group representing Russian state prosecutors can be accepted as a party to the inquest process, which would allow it to cross-examine witnesses and examine evidence.
And he raised concerns at Tuesday's hearing that the start date for the inquest may be missed "due to the complexity of the investigation which necessarily precedes the hearings".
The pre-inquest legal review has previously heard that Mr Litvinenko was working alongside Spanish spies for MI6 in the days before his death.
British government documents that implied Russia was behind the 43-year old's death were also revealed. Moscow has denied any involvement.
Russia has refused to extradite main suspect, Mr Lugovoi, to the UK for questioning. He has also denied any involvement.
Neil Garnham, representing the Home Office, has told the review he could "neither confirm nor deny" whether Mr Litvinenko had been employed by British intelligence.
Proceedings were adjourned until Wednesday when Sir Robert is expected to announce whether the government should be required to shed light on the nature of the evidence it aims to conceal.
UK police search Berezovsky property
By By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, Associated Press – 6 minutes ago
LONDON (AP) — British police said Sunday that experts in hazardous materials are searching a property after the death of Boris Berezovsky, the self-exiled Russian tycoon who went from Kremlin kingmaker to fiery critic after a bitter falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Police said a 67-year-old "believed to be" Berezovsky was found dead at the property in Ascot, a town 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of London on Saturday. Thames Valley police say his death is being treated as "unexplained."
Police said Sunday they have set up a cordon and that officers are conducting the search "as a precaution" and there is no risk to neighbors. The BBC described the site as Berezovsky's home.
"It is important we take all necessary measures to ensure a full and thorough investigation can be carried out," Supt. Stuart Greenfield said in a statement.
Berezovsky — who had survived a number of assassination attempts — amassed a fortune through oil and automobiles during Russia's chaotic privatization of state assets following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Once a member of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle, Berezovsky fell out with Yeltsin's successor, Putin, and fled Britain in the early 2000s to escape fraud charges that he said were politically motivated.
He became a strident and frequent critic of Putin, accusing the leader of ushering in a dictatorship, and accused the security services of organizing the 1999 apartment house bombings in Moscow and two other Russian cities that became a pretext for Russian troops to sweep into Chechnya for the second war there in half a decade.
In recent years, the one-time Kremlin powerbroker-turned-thorn in Putin's side fended off legal attacks that often bore political undertones — and others that bit into his fortune.
Russia repeatedly sought to extradite on Berezovksy on a wide variety of criminal charges, and the tycoon vehemently rejected allegations over the years that he was linked to several deaths, including that of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya and ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Berezovsky won a libel case in 2010 against a Kremlin-owned broadcaster that aired a show in which it was suggested he was behind the poisoning of Litvinenko, who had fled Russia with Berezovsky's help after accusing officials there of plotting to assassinate political opponents.
He took a hit with his divorce from Galina Besharova in 2010, paying what was at the time Britain's largest divorce settlement. The figure beat a previous record of 48 million pounds ($73.1) and was estimated as high as 100 million pounds, though the exact figure was never confirmed.
Last year, Berezovsky lost a multibillion-pound High Court case against fellow Russian Roman Abramovich and was ordered to pay 35 million pounds ($53.3 million) in legal costs.
Berezovsky had claimed that Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, cheated him out of his stakes in the oil group Sibneft, arguing that he blackmailed him into selling the stakes vastly beneath their true worth after he lost Putin's good graces.
But a judge threw out the case in August, ruling that Berezovsky was a dishonest and unreliable witness, and rejected Berezovsky's claims that he was threatened by Putin and Alexander Voloshin, a Putin ally, to coerce him to sell his Sibneft stake.
It also recently emerged that Berezovsky ran up legal bills totaling more than 250,000 pounds in just two months of a case against his former partner, Elena Gorbunova, with whom he had two children and who claimed the businessman owed her millions.
Earlier this week, The Times of London newspaper reported that Berezovsky was selling property — including an Andy Warhol portrait of the former Soviet Union leader Vladimir Lenin — to settle his debts and pay expenses owed to lawyers.
Berezovsky did not kill himself, Litvinenko's wife says
The widow of a Russian dissident who was poisoned in London has said she does not believe that the oligarch Boris Berezovsky killed himself.
Mr Berezovsky, a fiery critic of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin who fled to the UK in 2000, was found dead at the age of 67, reportedly in a bath at his home.
By Steven Swinford and Tom Parfitt
10:00PM GMT 24 Mar 2013
Mr Berezovsky, a former ally turned outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, was found lying dead on the bathroom floor of his Berkshire home on Saturday after the door had been locked from the inside.
The Daily Telegraph has been told that he was wearing his clothes and that there was no blood at the scene.
Thames Valley police said yesterday that there was no evidence a "third party" was involved and detectives are questioning his family and friends about his "state of mind" before his death.
However, the wife of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko said yesterday that Mr Berezovsky had "many enemies" and that it was "not likely" he that he had committed suicide.
Mr Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, was murdered in 2006 after drinking tea which had been poisoned with radioactive polonium-210. An inquest is due to take place later this year.
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Aerial footage of Boris Berezovsky's home
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Berezovsky was found dead on bathroom floor behind locked door
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Berezovsky's home cordoned off by police
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His wife, Marina, a friend of Mr Berezovsky, told The Daily Telegraph that when she last saw him four weeks ago he was in better spirits.
"From my point of view it is not likely that he committed suicide," she said. "He had a lot of enemies. He was an outspoken person and never tried to hide what he thought.
"When I talked to him last he was a little recovered and I believed he would be better. He started to take interest and to ask about my son."
Mr Berezovsky was discovered by a member of his staff, thought to be his bodyguard, at around 3pm on Sunday.
He had not seen his employer since 10.30pm the previous evening, and after forcing open the bathroom door found Mr Berezovsky lying on the bathroom floor. He was declared dead at the scene by a paramedic.
Members of Mr Berezovsky’s family started to arrive at the manor house near Ascot, in Berkshire, as the paramedic attended to Mr Berezovsky.
On leaving the premises the paramedic's personal electronic dosimeter, which measures the air for potentially dangerous levels of radiation, was triggered.
Specialist officers were called to the scene and a two mile cordon was put in place around the property. However, no further traces of radiation were found and the cordon was lifted.
Yuri Dubov, a writer and one of Mr Berezovsky's closest friends, was at his house just hours after he was found dead.
Mr Dubov told The Daily Telegraph: “Boris’s personal bodyguard noticed Boris’s mobile telephone lying somewhere in the Ascot house on Saturday afternoon shortly after 3pm with several missed calls on it going back to 11.30am that morning.
"It was very unusual for Boris to miss calls like that. He realised something was wrong and rushed to check the bathroom but found the door locked and when nobody answered his knock he broke it down.
“He found Boris lying on the floor dead, in his clothes. The bodyguard touched him and felt he was cold. He checked for signs of blood and found none before rushing to call the emergency services.
"It could be a stroke, it could be a heart attack, it could even be that Boris committed suicide. What’s certain for me is that Boris was killed by the years of pressure and having dirt poured on him by the Russian authorities."
Police yesterday said that Mr Berezovsky's death remains "unexplained" and that a post-mortem will be carried out today.
One friend said he suffered from heart problems and recently said a "heart attack would be the easiest way out" of his troubles.
Friends of the 67-year-old said he had become "extremely depressed" after losing court battles against Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, and his former partner Yelena Gorbunova.
In an interview with a journalist from the Russian edition of Forbes less than 24 hours before his death, he said he no longer saw the point of life.
He said: “I’ve lost the point… there is no point [or meaning] in my life. I don’t want to be involved in politics. I don’t know what to do. I’m 67 years old. And I don’t know what I should do from now on.”
Mr Berezovsky became severely depressed after losing his suit against Mr Abramovich last year, leaving him with a £70million legal bill. He was described by Mrs Justice Gloster as an "unimpressive, inherently unreliable, witness who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept".
He was prescribed anti-depressants and also spent several days at the Priory clinic. Lord Bell, one of Mr Berezovsky's advisers, said: "He was extremely upset and completely unlike himself. [But] I have never thought he was a person who would take his own life. He was a person who loved life and who battled.”
In the 1980s and 1990s Mr Berezovsky rose to become one of the most powerful men in Russia and helped choose Mr Putin as President.
However, he emigrated to the UK in 2000 and became one of Mr Putin's fiercest critics.
He survived a number of assassination attempts, including a bomb in his car which decapitated his chauffeur. In June 2007, MI5 and Scotland Yard intercepted a plot to kill Mr Berezovsky when they tracked and arrested a suspected Russian hitman. The suspect was deported back to Russia.
Boris Berezovsky's death leaves friends suspecting foul play
After the tycoon's many financial, political and legal battles, those close to exile say he would not have taken his own life
Luke Harding and Robert Booth
The Guardian, Sunday 24 March 2013 17.01 EDT
During the final few months of his life, Boris Berezovsky was living in a mansion in Surrey. The property – just outside Ascot, and surrounded by bucolic fields and close to the M25 – belonged to his second ex-wife, Galina.
The couple remained on friendly terms after their divorce and Galina invited Boris to take up residence after he was forced to sell his own £25m mansion in nearby St George's Hill to pay his astronomical legal bills following his defeat in the high court last summer to Roman Abramovich.
Galina Berezovsky arrived at the house – Titness Park in Mill Lane – on Saturday afternoon, having been informed that the father of her two children was dead. At first, detectives refused to let her inside. Undeterred, she opened the gate and entered the property.
According to Nikolai Glushkov, one of Berezovsky's oldest friends, Galina emerged from the house believing Berezovsky may have been murdered. She has yet to give an account of what she saw, but Glushkov, who spoke to her afterwards, told the Guardian: "I'm definite Boris was killed. I have quite different information from what is being published in the media."
Glushkov is a former deputy director of Aeroflot, and – like Berezovsky – fled from Russia to Britain. He noted that a large number of Russian exiles including Berezovsky had recently died under mysterious circumstances. "Boris was strangled. Either he did it himself or with the help of someone. [But] I don't believe it was suicide."
Friends concede that the normally indefatigable oligarch had been in poor spirits since last summer when his £3bn private litigation battle against Abramovich, the Chelsea FC owner, ended in disaster. Still, they insist, the businessman and vehement Kremlin enemy would never have killed himself. "I don't believe what is being said about Boris being depressed or suicidal. This is terrible. This is bullshit," Glushkov said.
Until the end the oligarch was in close contact with his family – six children from three different women. Two of his children are now in their 40s, two in their 20s, and his youngest are aged 12 and 10.
All three marriages ended, the second in an eye-wateringly expensive divorce. In January his former lover Yelena Gorbunova won a freeze order on his £200m assets after they split last year.
Nevertheless, Glushkov said: "Galina still loved Boris. All his wives did. He was very fortunate about that. He was loved by his children and grandchildren."
According to Berezovsky's friend Lord Bell, his children are "totally distraught". A family friend told Bell his eldest son, Artem, "was just in tears and unable to speak".
Gorbunova sat with Berezovsky during his high court showdown. Berezovsky testified, in fluent but erratic English, that he and Abramovich had co-founded the Russian oil firm Sibneft in the wild west Russia of the 1990s. Abramovich later cheated him out of his share of the business, Berezovsky said, following his much-publicised feud with Vladimir Putin.
Mrs Justice Gloster came to another conclusion. She threw out Berezovsky's claim, finding that he was "dishonest" and "delusional".
Even after this blow, Berezovsky was "full of life", Glushkov said. He added: "Boris subsequently managed to resolve his financial problems."
This may have been true. But there is no doubt the Abramovich case left him broke. The costs were estimated at $100m. Berezovsky was forced to shut down his political foundation, which had waged a bitter campaign for over a decade against Putin. He was even unable to fund lawyers for Alexander Litvinenko's widow, Marina, ahead of an inquest this October into her husband's death. He was reportedly forced to sell a £50,000 Andy Warhol portrait of Lenin.
According to Andrew Stephenson, a London lawyer who represented Berezovsky for the last 20 years, his wealth had been increasingly tied up in a series of investigations around the world instigated by Russia. At the time of this death, he had faced actions against him in locations including Brazil, the Isle of Man, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, Stephenson said.
A chateau at Cap d'Antibes in the south of France, where his mother lived, was among assets frozen as a result of a complaint by Moscow to the French authorities which led to an investigation for money laundering.
The truth of Berezovsky's final hours may not be known for some time. But the response of Thames Valley police, which has carried out a series of radioactive and chemical tests, suggests that nothing can be ruled out.
Following the 2006 polonium murder of Litvinenko, Berezovsky's close friend, British authorities are alert to the possibility of foul play by Moscow. As of Sunday evening, Berezovsky's body was still at the scene. According to Glushkov, Scotland Yard had Berezovsky's home under surveillance; detectives will be now be examining the tapes.
Viewed as tragic drama, Berezovsky's flaw was simple: he misread Putin. Born in 1946 in Moscow to a Jewish civil engineer father, Berezovsky showed an early talent for mathematics. He gained a doctorate in applied mathematics, worked as an engineer and rose in the Soviet Union's prestigious Academy of Sciences.
Like other nascent oligarchs, he was quick to grasp that Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika offered opportunities to make money. When the Soviet Union collapsed he was one of the first to exploit the new capitalism.
Berezovsky's first business partner was Badri Patarkatsishvili. Like Berezovsky, the Georgian billionaire fled later to the UK, dying in 2008 of a heart attack. His friends refuse to believe his death was from natural causes.
The two went into the car business together, selling Soviet-built models. By 1994, Berezovsky had grown sufficiently rich that someone tried to murder him – planting a bomb under his car. He survived, but the blast killed his driver.
Berezovsky's ambitions were not just financial, extending to the political arena. In 1994 he acquired the television channel ORT, using it as a potent weapon to rescue Boris Yeltsin and to secure his re-election in 1996 against the resurgent communists.
Berezovsky's courting of Yeltsin has become the stuff of Machiavellian legend. He published the president's memoirs, befriended Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana and bankrolled Yeltsin's re-election campaign with fellow oligarchs. By the mid-1990s the mercurial Berezovsky was a figure of enormous influence inside the Yeltsin court – a fact that led many to hate him.
He played an instrumental role in ending the 1994-96 Chechen war and took on a powerful public post as chair of Russia's security council.
But it was Berezovsky's friendship with Putin, followed by intense mutual enmity, that came to define his subsequent life and lead him to exile.
His witness statement to the high court last year recalled how they were once close. They first met in 1991: Putin was working for St Petersburg's mayor, having returned from East Germany where he was a mid-ranking spy.
"During this time we became friends. We met frequently," Berezovsky recalled, adding that Putin had even stayed at his chalet in Gstaad.
The friendship continued throughout the 1990s. Berezovsky supported the then little-known Putin, who became head of the FSB, the KGB's successor agency. In retrospect, Berezovsky suggested that Putin's authoritarian impulses had been there all along. He recalled how he once spotted a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the hated Cheka, Lenin's secret police, in Putin's office.
Nevertheless, in the late 1990s Berezovsky backed Putin as the best candidate to succeed the ailing Yelstin, believing that he could control him.
This turned out to be a mistake. Soon after Putin took over as acting president in 2000, the two men fell out. Berezovsky's ORT TV station criticised Putin for his indifference to the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk. During their last stormy encounter in August 2000, Putin told his one-time mentor that he had to sell ORT – or go to jail.
Berezovsky departed using the affectionate words: "Goodbye Volodaya." Putin responded with Berezovsky's formal patronymic: "Goodbye Boris Abramovich." Soon after, Berezovsky decamped to London. From here he would wage a bitter and unrelenting anti-Putin campaign.
Their feud was nasty and personal. It also had an adverse impact on Russian-British relations. Back in Moscow, investigators launched dozens of criminal cases against Berezovsky. But a British court turned down the Kremlin's extradition request – a move that infuriated Putin, who interpreted it as a personal snub by Tony Blair.
Two former KGB agents allegedly slipped radioactive polonium into the tea of Litvinenko. Just over six years later, fellow exile and former friend Berezovsky was himself dead in circumstances that are as yet unclear.
Until they are, Berezovsky's friends will continue to believe the worst: that more than a decade after he left Russia, the Kremlin finally caught up with him.
Glushkov said: "I don't believe Boris died of natural causes. Too many deaths [of Russian exiles] have been happening."
Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ва́льтерович Литвине́нко) (30 August 1962 (4 December 1962 by father's account), – 23 November 2006) was an officer of Russian FSB secret service who specialized in fight with organized crime In November 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of 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 asylum in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a journalist, writer and consultant for British intelligence services.
March 25, 2013
The Fall of an Oligarch
As Berezovsky Lay Dying
by AFSHIN RATTANSI
You would have needed a Hogarth rather than neoclassical David to paint the dead body in a bathtub at a mansion, some 40km West of London found on the morning of Saturday 22nd March 2013. Zionist and Russian fugitive and business partner of the brother of President George W. Bush, Boris Berezovsky was once chairman of Russian TV. He came to see himself as a Russian revolutionary. But the man who was found dead at the age of 67 was no Jacobin journalist with a desire for liberty, equality and fraternity in the former Soviet Union.
The news first emerged on Facebook, where Berezovsky’s son-in-law, internet venture capitalist, Egor Schuppe posted a status update. Then, the journalist and former publisher Damian Kudryavtsev, a long-time friend, announced Berezovsky had died of a heart attack at eleven in the morning. An ambulance wasn’t called till after 3pm. Kudryavtsev dismissed claims of suicide and other anonymous sources said Berezovsky had recently been in Israel for coronary treatment – apparently he had suffered several heart attacks over the course of his final week.
And then Berezovsky’s spokesman Lord Tim Bell confirmed that Berezovsky’s body was found by a security guard. This is the Tim Bell of Bell Pottinger PR that has represented everything from Pinochet to Murdoch to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the Tim Bell who in the manner of elite historiography is credited with being “instrumental” in securing the 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher in Britain. But it seems that Bell, who was tasked with transforming the image of Boris Yeltsin in the mid-1990s, could do little to aid Boris Berezovsky’s mission to destroy Vladimir Putin’s political career in Russia.
Instead, through his reputed Berezovsky-$75,000-a-month stipend, Bell did manage to do immense damage to Anglo-Russian relations. Even in the hours after Berezovsky’s death, those in the UK who go under the increasingly-absurd job-title of “journalist” were keen to paint London as a John Le Carre city saturated with Russian secret agents. If anything, it seems to be full of British agents – was it Berezovsky who recruited murdered MI6 agent Alexander Litvinenko to the UK’s secret intelligence agency? We shall never know. As for Valter Litvinenko, father of Alexander, he alleged that it was Berezovsky who used Polonium-210 poison to kill his son in London.
But “cold” war thrillers weigh more heavily on the minds of UK journalists than news like British secret services have been involved in kidnapping Muslims for torture. For Britain’s media, it is the fear of “the other” and education over generations mean the “other” is Moscow. The need of British journalists (just look at the coverage of the death of Hugo Chavez) to destroy the reputations of foreign nations have become a psychopathy to excuse themselves from their collaboration in the worst war-crime of the twenty-first century – the Iraq War which was so opposed by Moscow.
What fertile ground for Tim Bell – whose company made millions out of the Iraq War – to sow ill-feeling between Britain and Russia, then! London, under successive Labour Party administrations genuflected to Washington, believing U.S. economic, cultural and political power was indomitable. London just didn’t know that the weeds were in their midst – the Western Capitalist Crisis.
Bell went about getting Berezovsky ensconced in the UK politico-social whirl (Reform Club; Eton schoolboys; Oxford University Russian Society; Royal United Services Institute; Chatham House; appearances in the Sunday Times and on the BBC’s Newsnight and Question Time TV shows). And for a decade, while British elites were being brainwashed, a new world of future superpowers and geopolitical relations were developing. In that Berkshire bath, it may even have occurred to Berezovsky that he and his wretched Public Relations stooge were on the wrong side of history.
As Berezovsky lay dying, a Chinese President was talking about how his first foreign trip – to Moscow, of course – had exceeded his expectations. The Syrian people were burying their dead after the latest atrocity by de facto NATO-backed insurgents – China and Russia, of course, support peace-talks rather than regime change in Syria. (The legitimate concerns of Syrians against their government can be gleaned from the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s wife also retained Tim Bell for Public Relations.)
Meanwhile, demonstrations against the brutal regime led by Tim Bell’s clients in Bahrain raged in Manama. And while Berezovsky, in that bathtub, might have reflected that he agreed with all that extra aid money U.S. President Obama has promised to Zionism during his trip to the Middle East, no-one in the developing world thinks U.S. policy on Palestine is going to do anything but maybe catalyse another 9/11. As for Berezovsky’s views on Iran, he supported Obama’s obscene sanctions which at best don’t work and at worst hurt the Persian poor. Regardless of successive U.S. National Intelligence Estimates that deny Obama’s belief in an Iranian nuclear weapons capability, Berezovsky talked to an Israeli journalist last year about “the complicated issue of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons” and in the context of continuing Zionist barbarism of how he understood that “what is driving the Israeli leadership is Israeli national interests.” As for his meddling in the Chechen quest for independence, even this particularly neocon strategy of his has been seen to fail.
If it wasn’t suicide or natural causes, we should expect little from the investigation of the local Thames Valley police into the death of Boris Berezovsky. The inquiry that began with Rupert Murdoch’s journalists hacking into the telephones of murdered teenagers has already enlightened Britons about how corrupt UK police forces are if they have a chance of getting a backhander. And whatever the press speculation about Berezovsky losing his ill-gotten gains and his desperation to sell an Andy Warhol painting of Lenin to raise funds, there is always a lot of money in any case involving this Russian oligarch. The UK police were checking for radiation in the hours after the body was found and say the death is unexplained. Already associates of Berezovsky are saying he was murdered, strangled with a scarf. What there is to be learned from a death in Ascot in England, so famous for horseracing concerns two decades of jockeying for power over this earth.
Boris Berezovsky, RIP
Did he end his own life – and, if so, why?
by Justin Raimondo, March 25, 2013
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The death of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky will doubtless provide plenty of grist for numerous conspiracy mills – indeed, he was the fount of many such tall tales, claiming the Russian government was behind not only the death of Alexander Litvinenko, but also engineered the bombings in Russian cities attributed to Chechen terrorist groups. The man who stood at the epicenter of London’s anti-Putin Russian community – where many of the oligarchs and other crooks have sought refuge from justice – was the equivalent of a Russian 9/11 "truther," who, as the judge in a recent court case involving Berezovsky put it, was an "inherently unreliable witness" who "regarded truth as a transitory concept."
His vast fortune – acquired under dubious circumstances in post-Soviet Russia – was largely gone when he died. He had recently lost a lawsuit against rival oligarch Roman Abramovich, and he also faced several other legal threats, including one by his former girlfriend which sought to freeze his assets. Reportedly nearly penniless at the time of his death, resorting to selling several valuable paintings and other items acquired over his rapacious career, according to his lawyer he "was almost living in poverty" at the end. Although the cause of his death is not known, according to news reports the exiled oligarch was found on the floor of his bathroom, which had been locked from the inside: friends say he was being treated for severe depression.
Although some of Berezovsky’s longtime supporters are hinting at foul play – the usual scenario of a KGB-Putin plot, as was cooked up in the Alexander Litvinenko polonium poisoning case – it seems likely the impoverished and dispirited oligarch either took his own life or else died of sheer stress.
If indeed it was suicide, then the timing may be key to understanding his motive. Barely a week before he was found dead, it was announced that the long planned official inquiry into the Litvinenko affair, scheduled to start in may, had been delayed to October. Various reasons have been given for the delay: the British government has been very slow to release documents to the court of inquiry. In addition, the Brits are insisting evidence of Litvinenko’s dealings with MI6, the British intelligence service that paid him monthly fees of £2000, be kept secret, and that certain witnesses be allowed to testify anonymously. Indeed, Sir Robert Owen, the coroner in charge of the inquiry, has threatened the British media with sanctions if they so much as hint at the identity of these witnesses.
To begin with, this murder – if murder it was – occurred in 2006. To say that the documents aren’t yet ready is hardly credible. While Litvinenko’s widow blames the Russians for the delay, what’s interesting is the intervention of Foreign Secretary William Hague, who wants to keep key evidence under wraps. It is generally assumed that the secrecy request has to do with Litvinenko’s widely known relationship with British intelligence, but this isn’t necessarily the case. While Mrs. Litvinenko remarked at the last hearing that it’s hard to imagine a body less interested in getting to the bottom of the case than the Russian authorities, perhaps it is the Brits who don’t want the truth to come out. After all, the Russians have agreed to hand over thousands of documents and have publicly stated their intention to participate in the inquiry, while the British agencies involved haven’t even begun to search, in some cases, for the requisite documentation.
Litvinenko was a protégé of Berezovsky: it was the Russian oligarch who funded Litvinenko’s anti-Russian propaganda campaign, through his "Civil Liberties Foundation," and it was the Berezovsky public relations machine that broadcast the accepted media narrative of the Litivinenko case: that the poisoning had been carried out by the "KGB" – always using the Soviet era acronym, instead of the actual name of the Russian agency known as the FSB – out of revenge for Berezovsky’s activities abroad. After fleeing Russia ahead of an indictment for massive fraud, embezzlement, and other financial crimes – crimes which lay at the very foundations of his huge fortune – the Russian oligarch went on a crusade to discredit and ultimately overthrow Vladimir Putin, and to support the Islamist insurgency in Russia’s former province of Chechnya. Under Berezovsky’s patronage, Litvinenko – a convert to Islam – wrote a series of books purporting to prove Putin and his supporters were behind virtually every terrorist attack in Russia attributed to Chechnyan terrorists. According to their story, it was all a hoax designed to perpetuate Putin in power.
While this was laughed at in Russia the same way we laugh at the Truthers who insist it was the US government itself that brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11 – via "controlled demolition," or whatever – the anti-Russian anti-Putin propagandists made use of it in the West, where it was uncritically repeated.
The British government cooperated with this nonsense, declaring Berezovsky a "political refugee," allowing him to avoid extradition to Russia to answer for serious crimes. They backed up the Berezovsky-manufactured narrative of Litvinenko’s death as a "KGB plot" – and now they are delaying the inquiry into Litvinenko’s death, laughably claiming that, six years later, they aren’t "ready" to go ahead.
Something doesn’t quite smell right here – and Berezovsky’s sudden death, probably by his own hand, should send alarm bells ringing for longtime observers of the Litvinenko case and Berezovsky’s role in it.
The narrative woven by the semi-official Western media around the Litvinenko case – that it was all a Kremlin plot to murder a marginal critic of the Putin regime – just doesn’t make sense. Why would the Russians kill him in a manner that would leave a radioactive trail stretching from Moscow to London?
Any serious effort to uncover the real facts of the case would give at least equal weight to a number of alternative explanations for Litvinenko’s bizarre death. To begin with, there are indications that Litvinenko was involved in a nuclear smuggling scheme, and according to news reports it wouldn’t be the first time. Since Litvinenko was being entirely supported by Berezovsky, it is worth asking what the exiled Russian oligarch’s role was in all this. Was Berezovsky involved in the smuggling of nuclear materials? If contamination from this led to Litvinenko’s death, surely Berezovsky’s role, if any, would come out in the inquiry – or is this what the British government is desperately trying to keep secret?
Litvinenko had also evidently gone into the blackmailing business, and was reported to be extorting several Russian Mafia figures, claiming to have sources inside the FSB that would provide the dirt on any number of Russian expatriates, threatening to make their darkest secrets public. As Litvinenko’s patron, surely Berezosky had knowledge and perhaps direct involvement in this project. If Litvinenko was killed by one or more of his intended victims, and this came out, then Berezovsky would likely have been implicated in the blackmail scheme. There are those who even speculate that Berezovsky was himself being blackmailed by Litvinenko.
If Berezovsky killed himself, it is worth asking: why? His closest friends and associates are even now saying he wasn’t the suicidal sort: that he was a fighter who loved life passionately. If Berezovsky took his own life, he must have had a very good reason. If he thought he was about to be exposed as having been complicit not only in perpetrating the fraudulent narrative around Litvinenko’s death, but also as having committed far more serious crimes that would have led to his irrevocable disgrace – nuclear smuggling, blackmail, and perhaps worse – then suicide would have been the only way out.
Throughout his life, Berezovsky was a ruthless player in a game that involved stolen billions, international intrigue, and the fate of nations. He looted the Russian economy, and fled when his crimes were uncovered, serving as the mouthpiece and financier of a Western-orchestrated propaganda campaign against the country of his birth. In the end, he wound up broke, and alone, pursued by the demons of his past. Whether those demons will catch up with him in death remains to be seen.
Alexander Litvinenko: public inquiry to be held into spy's death
Home secretary announces move after pressure from ex-KGB agent's widow and coroner
theguardian.com, Tuesday 22 July 2014 11.40 BST
The home secretary has announced a public inquiry into who killed the former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko by radiation poisoning in a London hotel in 2006 in a move set to anger Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.
The inquiry will be chaired by Sir Robert Owen, a high court judge who is the current coroner in the inquest into Litvinenko's mysterious death, who has said there is material that does "establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state". The decision, announced by Theresa May in a written statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday morning, follows pressure from Owen and Litvinenko's widow, Marina, for a public inquiry "to get to the truth behind my husband's murder" and represents a U-turn in government policy.
May had previously resisted calls for a public inquiry, admitting "international relations have been a factor in the government's decision-making". Now investigators will be able to probe whether the Russian state was behind his murder at a time when relations between London and Putin are strained in the aftermath of the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Ukraine.
May said the inquiry would "identify, so far as is consistent with the Inquiries Act 2005, where responsibility for the death lies", how, when and where Litvinenko died and "make such recommendations as may seem appropriate".
She added: "The inquiry will not address the question of whether the UK authorities could or should have taken steps which would have prevented the death.
"It is more than seven years since Mr Litvinenko's death, and I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow, Mrs Litvinenko."
Litvinenko died a painful death aged 43 after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 with two Russian men, one a former KGB officer, at the Millennium hotel in Grosvenor Square, central London, in November 2006. The former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.
The UK Crown Prosecution Service charged Lugovoi with murder by deliberate poisoning six months after he died and the then director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, said he should be extradited from Russia to face trial for "an extraordinarily grave crime". Litvinenko's family believes he was working for MI6 at the time he died and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin. Russia denies any involvement.
Owen had previously called for a public inquiry to allow secret, sensitive government material to be examined. He stated that without the public inquiry his examination of any Russian involvement would not be possible because he would not be able to consider sensitive evidence held by the government. That material did "establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state" in the death, he wrote. His request was rejected in July 2013.
May wrote to Owen stating: "It is true that international relations have been a factor in the government's decision-making. An inquest managed and run by an independent coroner is more readily explainable to some of our foreign partners, and the integrity of the process more readily grasped, than an inquiry, established by the government, under a chairman appointed by the government, which has the power to see government material potentially relevant to their interests, in secret."
The government at that point said it wanted to "wait and see" what a judge-led inquest found. In January this year Marina Litvinenko launched a high court case to force a public inquiry and the following month the high court ruled the Home Office had been wrong to rule out an inquiry before the outcome of an inquest.
"I am relieved and delighted with this decision," said Marina Litvinenko. "It sends a message to Sasha's murderers: no matter how strong and powerful you are, truth will win out in the end and you will be held accountable for your crimes. It has taken nearly eight years to bring those culpable to justice. I have full confidence in Sir Robert Owen and the inquiry process. I look forward to the day when the truth behind my husband's murder is revealed for the whole world to see."
Gruesome twosome: Russian wanted over Litvinenko poisoning wants spying whistleblower Edward Snowden to co-host TV show with him
Andrey Lugovoy is accused of poisoning Alexander Litvinenko in London
He now wants to turn whistleblower Edward Snowden into a TV presenter
Snowden is hiding in Moscow under tight security with his girlfriend
By WILL STEWART FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 11:17 EST, 15 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:57 EST, 15 October 2014
The man wanted on murder charges over the fatal poisoning of Vladimir Putin foe Alexander Litvinenko in London is seeking to turn American whistleblower Edward Snowden into a Russian TV presenter.
Andrey Lugovoy, a former secret services operative who is now a leading Moscow MP, is accused of spiking the emigre dissident's tea with radioactive polonium-210.
Putin refused to extradite him and he is now to front a television show about intelligence and spy agencies.
He has invited former National Security Agency contractor Snowden - who is hiding in Moscow after revealing America's eavesdropping secrets to the world - to co-host the show.
'We have sent an invitation to Snowden,' said Andrei Svintsov, a Lugovoy associate.
'We hope his experience and knowledge will help our audience to learn all nuances in the sphere of secret service and interaction between our security services.'
The LDPR TV channel is run by Lugovoy's ultranationalist political party, which backs Putin.
Both Snowden and Lugovoy are on international wanted lists and face arrest travelling to any Western country.
Andrey Lugovoy, a former secret services operative who is now a leading Moscow MP, wants to turn American whistleblower Edward Snowden into a Russian TV presenter
Snowden fled the United States in June 2013, after leaking information concerning the extensive electronic surveillance programmes conducted by the US government around the globe.
These includes spying on American citizens and foreign leaders.
The revelations sparked domestic controversy and strained relations between the Washington and its partners worldwide.
Snowden - who faces up to 30 years in jail in the US - received temporary asylum in Russia in 2013. Later he was granted a residence permit until 2017.
He lives with his US girlfriend under tight security in the Russian capital.
Litvinenko died in 2006 after being poisoned.
A British demand for Lugovoy's extradition in 2007 was rejected by Moscow.
Snowden has not yet reacted to the proposal
Alexander Litvinenko's widow speaks exclusively to the Visiter ahead of her talk in Southport
Oct 14, 2014 07:00 By Rebecca Koncienzcy
A Very Russian Affair will be held at the 88 Lord Street restaurant this Thursday
Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko, authors of Death of a Dissident, the story of the murder, by polonium 210 poisoning, of former KGB officer, Alexander Litvinenko.
The widow of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko has spoken of her determination for justice for her husband ahead of her talk in Southport.
Marina Litvinenko will be at the 88 Lord Street restaurant tonight, Thursday, October 16, for a Russian evening to talk about her late husband, a former Russian Federal Security Service officer who was allegedly poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 and died in November 2006.
Marina will be joined by Alex Goldfarb, a close friend and coauthor of Death of a Dissident and Southport resident and lawyer, John Boydell, who has organised the evening.
When the Visiter interviewed Marina it was a poignant time for her, it was eight years to the day that she and her late husband became British citizens and it was just weeks before Alexander, Sasha as Marina calls him, was poisoned.
She said: “I am coming to this event to help the fundraising for the Litvinenko Justice Foundation so that we can pay for the legal costs of the public inquiry of the death of my husband.
“I believe that it is in the public interest to find out what happened to my husband, I can not bring the people who poisoned him to court because they are in Russia, but I can try to find out how he was killed.
“Some sort of statement, to have it out in the open, what happened to my husband and how he was killed and who killed him - that is enough for me, I just want justice.
“It has taken eight years for us to get here, eight years since my husband was killed.”
After Litvinenko was arrest twice for ‘exceeding the authority of his position’ in Russian, but both time acquitted, he, Marina and their young son fled to seek asylum in the UK.
It was here that Alexander wrote two books that accused the Russian government of committing acts of terrorism against their own people.
Marina said: “I am grateful that I am here, in England, where I can speak out like this.
“People should be proud that they are from a country that allows you to speak out.
“It was a very special day for me and Alexander when we became British citizens.
Marina has never given up her quest for justice and will appear in the High Court in London on Thursday morning for a pre-hearing before the inquiry into Alexander’s death starts in January next year and will be able to update the Southport audience.
She said: “First of all I have the good support of my friends, but importantly, my son Anatoly, was only 12 years old when Alexander was killed, and that is a very important age, and I just had to keep going for him.
“He is now studying politics in London, which is something that I did not push on him, just as he grew older he became more interested.
“My parents still live in Russia, I am their only child and Anatoly is their only grandchild. They have been to England a few times, but not so much now as they are not as young.
“I would of course go back to Russia if it was something serious, but right now it is so unpleasant, I do not want to go back.”
A Very Russian Affair takes place at 88 Lord Street, Thursday, October 16 at 7pm.
Suspect in poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko hired for Russian TV series
Production company says Andrei Lugovoi recruited as consultant for show on murder of former KGB agent in London
Tuesday 9 December 2014 11.33 EST
A Russian production company has hired a man charged with the murder of a Russian agent as a consultant on a TV series about the mysterious death.
Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210. Britain identified the two Russian men who had met Litvinenko for tea as prime suspects and charged one of them, Andrei Lugovoi, with murder.
Moscow refused to extradite Lugovoi, who denies any wrongdoing and was soon elected to the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the state Duma, where he still sits.
The studio, Central Partnership, said on Tuesday that Lugovoi has been hired to share his memories of the meeting with Litvinenko and to consult the actors and the director of the miniseries. Lugovoi has also helped the screenwriter with the script, the production company said.
Central Partnership quoted Lugovoi as saying he chose a Russian company after being approached by foreign studios he didn’t trust. “I made a conscious decision to turn down all of them because I understood that none of them were able to tell this Russian story truthfully because of a different mentality,” Lugovoi said.
An inquest into Litvinenko’s death stalled over authorities’ reluctance to disclose secret intelligence evidence. But in July Britain announced a public inquiry into the death.
Lawyers for Litvinenko’s family said he was working for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, at the time of his death.
The case soured British-Russian relations for years, leading both sides to expel diplomats.
Those lingering political tensions worsened recently as Britain and other western powers accused Russia of fomenting unrest in Ukraine and being complicit in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine.
Britain, along with France and Germany, has been pushing for harsher sanctions on Russia.
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