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10 Myths and Facts About Litvinenko

© AFP 2021An art gallery visitor looks at a painting showing Alexander Litvinenko
An art gallery visitor looks at a painting showing Alexander Litvinenko - Sputnik International
The first day of the semi-public inquiry into the 2006 death of Russian fugitive Alexander Litvinenko has produced a record volume of drivel from lawyers and journalists alike. Here is a selection of the most publicised myths about the case and some sobering facts.

Myth 1: Litvinenko was a Russian spy.

FACT: He was an officer in the organized crime department of the Russian Federal Security Service, an analogue of the UK Serious Crime Office or American FBI. He had nothing to do with spying for Russia anywhere in the world.

Myth 2: He was Sacked from the FSB for Exposing Corruption Within the Organisation.

FACT: He was sacked as he posed a conflict of interest after appearing on a Russian TV channel controlled by Boris Berezovsky, hiding behind a balaclava, and making allegations about a “plot” to kill his employer. The employer in question was Boris Berezovsky, for whom Litvinenko worked as a member of his security detail while being a serving officer of a state law enforcement agency, the FSB. In doing so, Litvinenko was in direct breach of his oath of allegiance to protect the interests of the state.

© RIA Novosti . Sergey Subbotin / Go to the photo bankBoris Berezovsky
Boris Berezovsky - Sputnik International
Boris Berezovsky

Myth 3: Litvinenko was a Staunch and Tireless Fighter against Corruption.

FACT: When in March 1995 Moscow police attempted to interview Boris Berezovsky about the murder of his direct boss at the Russian Channel One TV station, Litvinenko used his FSB authority to shield Berezovsky from police inquiries. Berezovsky was suspected of having a dispute with the murdered Director General of Channel One about the use of advertising revenue.

Myth 4: Litvinenko Dictated his Death bed Statement Accusing President Putin of Having him Murdered to a “Family Friend” Alexander Goldfarb.

FACT: At the time of the incident Alexander Goldfarb was working for Boris Berezovsky as his PR manager. Mr. Berezovsky had a huge grudge against President Putin. Mr. Goldfarb appeared on all Western news outlets with commentary about the Litvinenko case. His role as Mr. Berezovsky’s PR manager was not disclosed to the public.

MYTH 5: Litvinenko’s “Betrayal” Greatly Damaged Russia’s Security, which Explains his “Elimination” by the Russian Secret Service.

FACT: Arguably, the biggest damage to Russia’s security was inflicted by Oleg Gordievsky, who, unlike Litvinenko, was a real spy.  After his betrayal of Moscow’s intelligence operations in the West back in 1985 Gordievskiy was tried in absentia and sentenced to capital punishment. He is alive and well living in England, and no attempts on his life have ever been reported.

Myth 6: Litvinenko was Killed because he was about to Expose Criminals at the top of Russian Leadership. He was Meeting his ex-FSB Colleagues to Obtain Incriminating Evidence.

FACT: Litvinenko met his ex-FSB colleagues to discuss setting up a business venture in the UK. Having fallen out with his employer Berezovsky, who had him smuggled out of Russia and helped him settle in Britain, Litvinenko was deeply in debt and was looking for a business opportunity to be able to pay for his 500 thousand pound London property (in 2006 prices).

Myth 7: The Polonium Allegedly used to Poison Litvinenko had put Thousands of Londoners at risk.

Fact: One has to swallow a certain amount of polonium for it to be lethal. The inquiry into Litvinenko’s death was told that he had been poisoned not once but three times before the poison worked. Both suspects in the Litvinenko murder had allegedly contaminated themselves by accident. What more living proof does there need to be than to see them alive and kicking 8 years after the incident? This is sheer scare mongering by the British media and it’s quite irresponsible on their part.

Myth 8: Mr. Litvinenko’s Widow Expects the Inquiry to Establish the Complicity of the Russian State in the Murder of her Husband.

FACT: Mrs. Litvinenko has been arguing that her late husband had been working for the British secret service and that it had failed in its duty to protect him. If this is established, Mrs. Litvinenko would be entitled to compensation from the British state, which makes such an admission problematic. Hence, the British government’s insistence that some evidence should be kept off limits to the public.

Myth 9: British Secret Service has Prima Facie Evidence of the Complicity of the Russian State in the Murder of Mr. Litvinenko.

FACT: This secret evidence in the form of a communications intercept provided by the US is said to be “inadmissible in a court of law”, which turns it into nothing more than libel.

Myth 10: The Russian Suspects in the Litvinenko Case Would be Given a Fair Trial at a British Court.

FACT: The suspects have already been tried by British – and Western – media and declared guilty as charged. This alone is enough to have their case thrown out since a fair trial is no longer possible.

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