Poisoned: Spy Who Defected Russia For Britain

LONDON, UK -- Alexander Litvinenko was a friend of Anna Politkovskaya, one of the Kremlin’s most powerful critics, particularly over the war in Chechnya.

Alexander Litvinenko (L) and Anna Politkovskaya (R)

“We met at Piccadilly Circus,” said Litvinenko. “Mario said he wanted to sit down to talk to me, so I suggested we go to a Japanese restaurant nearby.

“I ordered lunch but he ate nothing. He appeared to be very nervous. He handed me a four-page document which he said he wanted me to read right away. It contained a list of names of people, including FSB officers, who were purported to be connected with the journalist’s murder.

“The document was an e-mail but it was not an official document. I couldn’t understand why he had to come all the way to London to give it to me. He could have e-mailed it to me.”

After the meeting the Italian had simply “disappeared”, although Litvinenko emphasised that he was not in a position to accuse him of involvement in his poisoning.

That night Litvinenko became violently ill. His wife Marina, 44, said: “At first I thought it was just a bug but then he started vomiting. But it wasn’t normal vomiting.”

She said her husband is a fit man who often runs three miles a day. He had no previous record of medical problems. He was admitted to Barnet hospital on the third day.

Nine days ago, his condition suddenly deteriorated and he lost all his hair. Doctors say Litvinenko has not eaten for 18 days and is receiving what little nourishment he can take via an intravenous drip.

Russian and East European agents have a history of using poisons to attack their enemies. Markov was poisoned with ricin and died three days later.

More recently Victor Yushchenko suffered facial disfigurement after being poisoned with suspected dioxin as he campaigned for the presidency of Ukraine.

Litvinenko, a specialist in fighting organised crime, came to prominence in 1998 after he accused the Russian authorities of trying to kill Boris Berezovsky, a tycoon close to Boris Yeltsin, who was then president.

He claims he was drummed out of the spy agency and subjected to harassment to punish him for speaking out. He was arrested twice on what he says were trumped up charges. Although he was acquitted, he spent months in Moscow prisons.

In 2000 he was arrested for a third time on charges of faking evidence in an investigation. Friends told him he was unlikely to escape lightly under the Putin regime.

Litvinenko decided to flee before he was arrested. Stripped by the authorities of his passport, he ended up in Turkey where he joined Marina and their son Anatoly, who had flown from Moscow on tourist visas.

They came to Britain and claimed asylum. He has been a thorn in Moscow’s side ever since.

Marina said she was hoping to find a bone marrow donor to save her husband’s life.

Doctors have moved him to another hospital offering more specialised treatment and police have taken his family into protective custody.

Source: The Sunday Times