A remarkable woman’s fight for justice against Vladimir Putin
The Soviet Union had a long tradition of assassination of enemies, but after its collapse under Yeltsin the assassinations ceased and Moscow’s secret poison lab was put on the back burner. However, under Vladimir Putin, these operations resumed.
We all have our heroes. Mine is Marina Litvinenko, whose husband, Alexander (Sasha) Litvinenko, was assassinated in London fifteen years ago on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin, living in its own little world of ‘alternative facts’, of course denied any involvement, but last week the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia was responsible for Sasha’s murder . Due to the nature and scarcity of the radioactive materials used in his murder, produced at the closed Sarov nuclear facility just under 500 miles southeast of Moscow, only Putin could have given his approval for its use. in murder.
Sasha was certain that Vladimir Putin had authorized his assassination. In a transcript of an interview with him hours before his death, when asked who he believed ordered his assassination, he replied: âThe President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. You know of course, as long as he is still president, you will not be able to prosecute him as the main author of the order, because he is the president of a huge country stuffed with nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons. But I have no doubt that as soon as power changes in Russia or when the first officer of Russian special services defects in the west, he will say the same. He will say that I was poisoned by Russian special services on the orders of Putin.
Marina, whom I have known for many years, did not wait for a change of power in Russia. She has tirelessly and courageously demanded justice for her husband month after month since his death on November 23, 2006. Despite the British government’s initial refusal to hold a public inquiry into the murder, which many believed only because it could harm the relationship. UK. with Moscow, Marina and her legal team persisted and an investigation finally began in January 2015. It lasted six months and concluded that “the operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. in the Soviet KGB) and also by President Putin â.
Litvinenko’s story surpasses any fictional thriller. It combines corruption, intrigue, clubbing and poisoning with the desperate flight of a family from near certain death. In addition to the endless newspaper articles, Litvinenko’s story was a successful play in the London theater, and even a highly acclaimed opera, performed for the first time this year.
It was in 1994 that Marina, ballroom dancer and fitness instructor, met Sasha, a KGB officer specializing in the fight against terrorism and the infiltration of organized crime. Almost unique among KGB officers, Sasha had a strong moral conscience and hated organized crime, so prevalent in Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was to be his downfall. As the KGB transformed into the FSB, Sasha was promoted to the post of deputy head of the seventh section of the Directorate for Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups. Within months, he discovered that most of the senior staff in the Directorate had close ties to and benefited from the Mafia groups they were supposed to “crack down”. They provided “krysha” (roof), a Russian word describing the people who protect your business.
In her book âDeath of a Dissident,â co-authored with family friend Alex Goldfarb, Marina uses her husband’s words to describe the system: âFirst it (krysha) was provided by the crowd, then by the police, and soon even our guys realized what was what, then the rivalry started between gangsters, cops and FSB for market share. As the police and the FSB became more competitive, they pushed the gangs out of the market. However, in many cases competition gave way to cooperation, and the services themselves became gangsters. Sacha had discovered what Russia would become under Vladimir Putin, a completely corrupt state from top to bottom.
Ironically enough in retrospect, Sasha presented his report on corruption to then FSB chief Vladimir Putin, who did not seem clearly impressed. He told Marina on his return “I could see in his eyes that he hated me”. In fact, Putin was very alarmed that his financial slack, the one that would have made him a multibillionaire, had been spotted and threatened.
Four months later, in a desperate act to get the message across, Sasha and four other “conscientious” masked FSB colleagues appeared at a press conference with Interfax, a Russian news agency, giving examples of corruption. ‘State. This was the last straw for the Kremlin and Sasha was immediately fired from the FSB and arrested. Although he was acquitted of the absurd charges of “exceeding the authority of his position”, he was arrested again before the charges were again dismissed. Sasha, who was on bail, realized he had to leave Russia as soon as possible, or face certain death. In defiance of an order not to leave Moscow and pursued by the FSB, Sasha concocted a complex and dangerous journey for himself, Marina and their grandson, Anatoly, to Istanbul, where they sought asylum. at the American Embassy. They were refused. However, with the help of Alex Goldfarb, they bought tickets from Istanbul to Moscow, via London, and the transit lounge at Heathrow that they requested, and then were granted political asylum. On October 13, 2006, Sasha, Marina and Anatoly obtained British citizenship. The Kremlin’s revenge came weeks later.
It is no coincidence that months before Sasha’s assassination, a sinister law was passed in Moscow that allowed Russian agents “to commit murderous acts abroad without investigation.” The Soviet Union had a long tradition of assassination of enemies, but after its collapse under Yeltsin the assassinations ceased and Moscow’s secret poison lab was put on the back burner. However, under the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin, these operations resumed and once again critics and enemies of the Kremlin eventually die. The last attempt was in the UK against Sergei Skripal and his daughter three years ago, which exceptionally failed. For Sasha, death came in a particularly unpleasant, prolonged and unusual way: poisoning with a radioactive isotope polonium-210. The hitman in this case was Sasha’s former FSB colleague Andrei Lugovoi, who arranged a friendly business meeting with him at an elegant London hotel near the US Embassy. There, Lugovoi murdered Sasha by misleadingly putting polonium-210 in her cup of green tea.
Lugovoi, of course, denies doing this, but the facts clearly show that he is lying. Everywhere he went in London on this memorable trip, he left traces of massive alpha radiation from the polonium he had carried: in the hotel’s men’s toilet and hand dryer; on the chairs where he was seated; at the restaurant where he took his evening meal; in the two hotels where he stayed during the visit; in the strip club he went to that night; and in his seat on flight BA875 to London from Moscow. Everywhere he went there was alpha radiation. On his return to Moscow, Putin was so thrilled with his work that he awarded Lugovoi a medal for “services to the Fatherland”, but oddly, Lugovoi still insists that he has nothing to do with the death of Sasha. Putin also eased Lugovoi’s path to becoming a deputy in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, where he is immune from prosecution.
In the pursuit of justice for her husband, it was Marina who last November brought the case to the ECHR, convincingly winning by six votes to one, with Russian judge Dmitry Dedrov unsurprisingly the alone to vote against. In rendering its verdict last week, the ECHR also ordered Russia to pay Marina 100,000 euros in damages and 22,500 euros in costs. In a statement following the announcement, she said the move should mark a turning point in Putin’s appeasement. “It makes me very sad to say this, but the Russia that I love no longer belongs to the community of civilized nations.”
The civilized world clearly agrees. Based on the two surveys, the score so far is: Marina Litvinenko 2 Vladimir Poutine 0.
John Dobson is a former British diplomat, who also worked in the office of British Prime Minister John Major between 1995 and 1998.