Michael John Smith, the last person in history convicted of spying for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the world, and a former quality control officer who turned intelligence specialist after his unfair conviction, spoke to the Voice of Russia about the case of Alexander Litvinenko and the recent revelations that Litvinenko was working for MI-6 and Spain's secret service.
Michael John Smith
Hello! This is John Robles. I’m speaking with Michael John Smith. He is the last person convicted of spying for the Soviet Union in the UK.
Robles: Hello Mike! How are you this evening?
Smith: Hi John! Nice to talk to you again.
Robles: Yes, it’s been a while. What is your opinion on the Litvinenko case and the fact that he was actually working for MI-6?
Smith: This is another one of these surprising things that suddenly comes out of the blue. While it was speculated and discussed, about what he was actually up to over the time of his death, it now comes out in public that yes, he was actually working for MI-6 and he was earning something like 2,000 pounds per month as a salary. So, he was quite a regular agent working for the government. And also it seems he was working, or was going to work, for the Spanish secret service as well.
Robles: What connections do you know about with the Spanish secret services? What was he doing for them?
Smith: Litvinenko apparently knew quite a lot about what was going on in Russia and he had links with the Russian mafia or he knew of links. And he was going to help the Spanish Government in trying to combat Russian mafia activity in Spain. Whether the really did know what was going on or it was just a way of earning more money, I don’t know. It appears that he had links not only with MI-6 but also with the Spanish secret service.
Robles: He was also very closely connected with Berizovsky. Have you heard anything interesting about that connection?
Smith: Possibly he was involved in some activity involving arms being sold to Chechen paramilitary groups. It’s only an allegation I think in the UK, but it seems there might be some truth in it. And one of the reasons that seems to be also possible is that just before he died, he converted to Islam, and I believe he was buried under Muslim law.
Robles: Oh, really! That’s the first time I’ve heard that!
Smith: So, I think you wouldn’t do that I think, if you are about to die unless you had some sort of firm connection with Islamic culture.
Robles: What’s your opinion on the fact that polonium was used in order to assassinate him? I mean that would be something, I think personally, that would have been ridiculous for Russian intelligence to do, as far as, that is such a rare substance and easy to trace etc.
Smith: Yes, it is very rare. But it is not only the fact that it is rare, it is the fact that it is hard to get hold of it. How would you actually obtain polonium unless you had access to it? And that’s one of the reasons there was a lot of speculation in the UK that the Russian Government was behind this murder, was because Polonium 210 is very difficult to come by.
Now that sort of raises another issue, doesn’t it? Because if it is a nuclear material, it must come from some nuclear process. And any country that has activity in that sort of field could possibly have produced this Polonium 210. And that raises another further issue which has come up this year: the case of Yasser Arafat who died two years before Litvinenko in 2004. There’s been a lot of speculation that he died of polonium poisoning as well.
Robles: How many assassinations do you know of that have been carried out with polonium?
Smith: Well they are the only two that I have actually come across which makes it very unusual.
Robles: Do you see any connection between the two?
Smith: There might be, there might be a connection, if possibly the same people are behind both murders. That could raise lots of possibilities, like: would it be the same group who want to see Yasser Arafat dead as wanted to see Litvinenko off-the-scene. I mean possibly Mossad or the Americans could be behind it, as much as anybody else.
Robles: Why do you think Russia was immediately vilified at that time and blamed for it?
Smith: I think in the UK, in particular, there are lots of organizations and individuals who don’t want to see good relationships with Russia. And I believe about that time we were getting on better in the UK with Russia, in terms of trade and mutually beneficial processes of getting to know each other better.
When this murder came up in November 2006, this caused a lot of friction and I don’t think relations have been good ever since between Russia and the UK. And that suits certain people I think. For instance it was almost immediately said that Andrey Lugovoi must be the person responsible because he’s met with Litvinenko shortly before the murder. But he’s denied it and as I understand he took a lie-detector test.
Smith: Which as far as the CIA are concerned, a lie-detector is almost evidence that guy is not lying. So, there are very strange circumstances around this murder. I do feel that it is in the interests of certain organizations and individuals in the UK to not want to get on best terms with Russia.
Robles: Can you give us some examples?
Smith: As far as trade is concerned having better relationships and developing more economic ties.
Robles: What kind of groups are against improved relations?
Smith: The Conservative Party has never been very happy with good relationships with the Russians. And it’s always been seen as a negative thing because I suppose back in the days of the Soviet Union there was all this fear that was used as a weapon, sort of propaganda that anybody who supported socialist viewpoint must be in league with the Russians. They used to talk about “Reds under the bed”, if you remember.
Robles: You suffered a lot because of that. Do you see that Russophibia or Sovietophobia, if want to call it that…
Smith: I think it is still evident. It is maybe not the same as it was then because Russia is no longer the same country as it was 20 years ago. But it is still evident I think in the UK.
Robles: A lot of people in the West still think the KGB exists and still believe that there are communists running around and everything else.
Smith: Yes, I mean the KGB is still a term used in the UK whenever Russian secret services are involved.
Robles: What about other assassinations that may have been connected to MI-6 or MI-5?
Smith: It is said that the UK MI-6 doesn’t do that sort of thing. They don’t assassinate people. But there’ve been lots of instances over the years when people have disappeared or died and it’s been mysterious. There was a recent case two years ago of Gareth Williams who actually was an officer working for the GCHQ in the UK, which is the Government Communications Headquarters. He was succumbent to MI-6 and working in London.
Robles: The equivalent of the American NSA, right?
Smith: That’s right, yes. He was working in London, didn’t appear for maybe a week or so and then they’ve found him dead in his flat, trussed up in a bag, locked inside a bag, with the lock on the outside. So, obviously he couldn’t have done that himself which again looks like a murder nobody came up with a solution to that one.
Robles: What connection do you think Litvinenko had and what was he doing for MI-6? What do you think he was really doing?
Smith: Whatever he was up to, obviously that has something to do with his death. I think he must have been delving into something which is not in his best interests. But Litvinenko would have been using any knowledge he had of what was going on in Russia to inform his MI-6 handlers, what they should be doing in Russia I would have thought, to undermine the Russian Government in some way.
Robles: You were listening to an interview with Michael John Smith – the last person convicted of spying for the Soviet Union in the world. You can find part two on our website at english.ruvr.ru. Thanks for listening.