Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB
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The assassination of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander "Sasha" Litvinenko in November 2006 -- poisoned by the rare radioactive element polonium -- caused an international sensation. Within a few short weeks, the fit forty-three-year-old lay gaunt, bald, and dying in a hospital, the victim of a "tiny nuclear bomb." Suspicions swirled around Russia's FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Putin regime. Traces of polonium radiation were found in Germany and on certain airplanes, suggesting a travel route from Russia for the carriers of the fatal poison. But what really happened? What did Litvinenko know? And why was he killed?
The full story of Sasha Litvinenko's life and death is one that the Kremlin does not want told. His closest friend, Alex Goldfarb, and his widow, Marina, are the only two people who can tell it all, from firsthand knowledge, with dramatic scenes from Moscow to London to Washington. "Death of a Dissident" reads like a political thriller, yet its story is more fantastic and frightening than any novel.
Ever since 1998, when Litvinenko denounced the FSB for ordering him to assassinate tycoon Boris Berezovsky, he had devoted his life to exposing the FSB's darkest secrets. After a dramatic escape to London with Goldfarb's assistance, he spent six years, often working with Goldfarb, investigating a widening series of scandals. Oligarchs and journalists have been assassinated. Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko was poisoned on the campaign trail. The war in Chechnya became unspeakably harsh on both sides. Sasha Litvinenko investigated all of it, and he denounced his former employers in no uncertain terms for their dirty deeds.
"Death of a Dissident" opens a window into the dark heart of the Putin Kremlin. With its strong-arm tactics, tight control over the media, and penetration of all levels of government, the old KGB is back with a vengeance. Sasha Litvinenko dedicated his life to exposing this truth. It took his diabolical murder for the world to listen.
to Moscow I will seek a meeting with President Putin to tell him how this can be done.” “Our side is in full agreement,” added Zakayev. “President Maskhadov is ready for peace. The ball is in the Kremlin’s court.” Of course Putin refused to meet with Rybkin. The Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers endorsed Rybkin’s initiative, however, and the pressure on the Kremlin increased, from Russian elites and foreign leaders, to stop the war. Rybkin later told me that when he returned to Moscow
electorate, particularly the antiwar and antidraft voters. Through his campaign he was aiming at establishing himself as the embodiment of anti-Putin sentiments, with an eye, perhaps, not at winning this election but setting himself up for the succession struggle of 2008. Rybkin’s strategy was to renew his peacemaking mission and attempt once again to paint Putin as a man who was wasting innocent Russian lives in a useless war with an enemy who desired peace, a war that had been started on a
with Komsomolskaya Pravda on December 14, 2006, he did not like Sasha and what he had to say: “This major came, thin, unshaven, shaggy-haired, with worn, unpolished shoes, wearing a pair of Chinese work trousers, his sweater hanging down to his knees. His eyes darted around.” Korzhakov heard him out for an hour and a half, and then he “asked around. It turned out that one of my friends worked in the ‘bad’ department that Litvinenko had ‘ratted out.’ I had served with him back in Afghanistan. I
hundred to one that the Communists will win and cancel all these auctions. And my advice to Boris is this: he should not do it either. He is putting into this all he has got, and he will lose it all.” Soros was not alone in this evaluation. Boris went around to all his Western and Eastern partners, from the bosses of Mercedes in Germany to the owners of Daewoo in Korea, but nobody wanted to buy into Sibneft. Everyone thought that Chubais’s gambit with dubious auctions would not last a month
district military court, a general. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I am an old man and I promise you that you will get a fair hearing.” He scheduled the trial for the beginning of October and assigned a judge to the case. The defense immediately moved to change the “restraining measure,” a Russian legal term that resembles a writ of habeas corpus. Sasha’s lawyer was asking that he be released until the trial; as a first offender he was not dangerous to the public and had no reason to flee. On