Monday, August 27, 2007

A Litvinenko - Politkovskaya Connection? Ten arrested for the journalist's murder...

The dying man is struggling to say something. With the last bit of strength in his body, he grabs at the hand of his friend, pulling him closer so that he can hear.

"Putin....It was Putin who did this to me..."

The voice withers away finally and completely, as does the man.

Was that how it will happen in the movie? Probably not, and it's not exactly how it happened in real life either. Alexander Litvinenko died in a London hospital on November 23, 2006. Near death, former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko offered a written statement condemning the Russian president and blaming him, among other things, for his own impending death.

Three principals in this grim tale were all ex-KGB. The Soviet KGB was legendary for its intrigues, its subterfuges, its diabolical cold-war activity in a game of spy upsmanship with the Central Intelligence Agency and the British MI6. KGB tactics were the stuff of James Bond films as victims were felled with pinpricks from poisoned umbrella tips or dispatched with bullets fired from fountain pens.

It's grimly like that old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel leaving a breadcrumb trail through the dark forest. Instead of breadcrumbs, however, these Gretels left behind lethal doses of Polonium 210, a radioactive substance to which few could gain access. Traces of the powerful poison were left from Moscow to London.

Litvinenko became mysteriously ill after a meeting in a London restaurant with Dmitri Kotvun and Andrei Lugovoi, both former spies and Russian intelligence agents turned businessmen. All three men had known each other during their days with the KGB. Litvinenko had become a bitter critic of current Russian president Vladimir Putin, also a former KGB agent.

After months of investigation, British prosecutors charged Andrei Lugovoi with being a participant in the murder. Russia refuses to hand Lugovoi over to British authorities and says it is conducting its own investigation. Putin's critics say that his dismissive attitude toward public suspicions and his disdain for domestic critics is part of a grand scheme of consolidating power in the hands of a powerful few.

It is not uncommon in modern-day Russia for business people, news reporters, and political critics to meet violent ends. Litvinenko was himself concerned with investigating the death of a Putin critic, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, executed by point blank gunshot to the head as she entered her Moscow apartment. It was just announced August 27, 2007 that ten people had been arrested for Anna's murder and the details have yet to be released.

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