Six Reasons You Can’t Take the Litvinenko Report Seriously | William Dunkerley
AThe investigation into the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the heart of London in 2006 concluded that he was “probably” murdered on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin. It is a disturbing accusation.
The report (pdf) states that Litvinenko, who died of radioactive poisoning, was killed by two Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were most likely acting on behalf of the Russian FSB secret service.
The head of the investigation, Sir Robert Owen, also came to the conclusion that there was sufficient evidence heard in open court to constitute a “strong circumstantial case” against the Russian state.
His findings mirror those of the late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who lived in London and campaigned against Putin before his own death in 2013. Litvinenko was his main bomb thrower.
I have analyzed this case since Litvinenko’s death, and have followed the investigation closely. I don’t know if his assassination was ordered by the Russian President or by someone in the Kremlin. What I do know is that Owen’s conclusions are not supported by reliable evidence.
The report is based on hearsay and is tainted with inconsistent logic. It offers no factual insight into what really happened to Litvinenko, but has been viewed as gospel truth by governments and pundits across the West.
Here are some of the problems
1. Public relations campaign
The investigation did not take into account the massive disinformation campaign launched by Berezovsky. It was Berezovsky, a nemesis of Putin, who advanced the story that the Russian president was behind the poisoning of Litvinenko and forwarded it to a credulous Western media, with the help of the public relations firm Bell. Pottinger.
A typical headline of the day was something like “Ex-KGB Spy Murdered on Order of Putin”. No facts were presented, just unsubstantiated allegations. Berezovsky’s well-funded handling of public discourse set the tone for everything to come.
If this was a jury trial, the media coverage would have prejudiced the case. In the absence of a jury, Berezovsky’s targets included the public, journalists, police and government officials. Yet there was no consideration of the impact of this far-reaching influence in the report.
The investigation appears to use different standards of proof for different witnesses. On the one hand, Owen claims he considers some of the evidence submitted by the two alleged killers, Lugovoi and Kovtun, to be deficient. As a result, he says, he will not consider any part of their accounts credible.
But he applies a different standard to others. For example, a retired physics professor named Norman Dombey testified that a sample of polonium contains a characteristic imprint that can be traced back to its source. However, Owen concludes that this fingerprint theory “is wrong and must be rejected.” He doesn’t react to the problems with some of Dombey’s testimonies by dismissing them all. In fact, he says he received valuable evidence from Dombey.
There is also the issue of Litvinenko’s dramatic statement on his deathbed involving Putin which has garnered so much international attention. Early media reports suggest the statement was composed by Litvinenko himself and dictated to his business partner, Alexander Goldfarb. The investigative report describes Goldfarb as the co-author of the book Death of a Dissident with Marina Litvinenko. He does not mention that he was a close ally of Berezovsky.
Subsequent news reports quote Goldfarb as saying he wrote the statement himself and verified it with Litvinenko. Another account suggests that the statement was drafted by the family’s lawyer, George Menzies, and discussed with public relations firm Bell Pottinger, acting for Berezovsky.
Who is correct? And more importantly, the statement does not explain how Litvinenko might have known of the Russian president’s guilt, nor does it offer evidence to support the claim.
The report does not acknowledge that Goldfarb is not an objective observer in this case. For example, he also participated in the promotion of the anti-Putin protests of the punk rock group Pussy Riot. This is important because it suggests that the accusations against Putin are part of a long campaign that spans his entire tenure in the Kremlin.
The report recounts many of the allegations against him as if they were discrete events rather than seeing them as part of an ongoing process. The point here is that the investigation should have viewed Goldfarb’s testimony in the context of a systematic anti-Putin agenda.
5. Lack of evidence
The report admits that there are no hard facts to support the allegations against Putin, noting that “the evidence of Russian state involvement in most of these deaths is circumstantial.” But “circumstantial” is used here as a euphemism for “factually unsupported”.
The report goes on to suggest that the other allegations against Putin over the years, such as that he was involved in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, “establish a pattern of events, which is of contextual importance to them. circumstances of Mr. Litvinenko’s death. ”. In other words, Owen admits to having been influenced by unproven cases in his examination of guilt in Litvinenko’s death.
6. Questionable reasoning
The role of Mario Scaramella, an Italian sometimes referred to as an academic, posed a dilemma for the investigation. At first, Litvinenko publicly accused Scaramella of poisoning him to prevent him from divulging information about Russia’s guilt in Politkovskaya’s death. But the story seems to have changed after Berezovsky visited Litvinenko in the hospital, after which his people began to say that Litvinenko blamed Putin.
There is no evidence that Scaramella was responsible, but the investigation accepted some strange reasoning for Litvinenko involving her in the first place. Apparently, the former spy was embarrassed to admit that he didn’t see Lugovoi and Kovtun as threats, so he initially concocted the allegations against Scaramello to save his professional pride.
While this analysis highlights serious flaws in the report, it does not present any evidence to exonerate Putin. Like I said, I don’t know if he’s to blame or not. But what happened to the presumption of innocence and the need to build a case before convicting someone?
It is clear that those who are at the origin of these claims against the Russian president have an agenda and are using a multitude of means to try to convince others.
The public inquiry’s acceptance of so many of their dubious allegations casts a veil on Owen’s efforts and renders his report virtually useless.
William Dunkerley is a United States-based media analyst and author who has written extensively on Russia. His recent books include Litvinenko Murder Case Solved and The Phony Litvinenko Murder