Friday, November 24, 2006

Is Russia back to being Russia??

Not for nothing did President Putin observe that his years as a KGB
agent were good training for his new career as ruler of Russia.

Spy's death-bed Putin accusation

Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko has accused Russian President
Vladimir Putin of involvement in his death, in a statement dictated before he
Mr Litvinenko, 43, who died in a London hospital on Thursday evening and
is thought to have been poisoned, said his killer was "barbaric and ruthless".

Protest from around the world "will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears
for the rest of your life," he said.

The Kremlin has dismissed allegations it was involved as "sheer

Scotland Yard said officers were now investigating "an unexplained

Anti-terror police are leading the investigation, and it is still
unclear what killed the former KGB agent.

Friends have said he was poisoned because of his criticism of Russia.

'Barbaric and ruthless'

In the statement, read out by his friend Alex Goldfarb outside
University College Hospital, London, Mr Litvinenko said he had a "message to
the person responsible for my present condition".

"You may succeed in silencing me, but that silence comes at a price.

"You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most
hostile critics have claimed."

"The howl of protest from around the world will reverberate Mr Putin in
your ears for the rest of your life," the statement added.

The statement was dictated on 21 November, when Mr Litvinenko realised
he could die.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated the Kremlin's earlier
dismissal of allegations of involvement in the poisoning as sheer nonsense.

"Any death is always a tragedy," he said.

"Now it's up to the UK law enforcement agencies to investigate what

'Excruciating death'

After Mr Goldfarb had read out the statement, Mr Litvinenko's elderly
father, Walter - who flew to the UK from Russia this week - said his son had
been killed by a "tiny nuclear bomb".

"It was an excruciating death, he was taking it as a real man," he said.

"Even before his death, in such a state, he never lost his human

Mr Litvinenko had recently been investigating the murder of his friend,
Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another critic of the Putin government.

Russian dissident Oleg Gordievsky, a former KGB colonel and friend of Mr
Litvinenko, maintained that the poisoning had been the work of the Russians.

The Russian security service had "sent a man with a poisonous pill to
Britain", put a pill into Mr Litvinenko's tea and killed him, he told BBC

Intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear Harvey said Mr Litvinenko had
"made a lot of enemies" when he had been tasked with fighting corruption
during his time with the Federal Security Service (FSB) - the KGB's successor.

Mr Harvey also said the poisoning could have been carried out by the
"Russian mafia", made up of former-KGB men who had formed the group when the
service broke up.

"So I think that while one could say they were trained by the KGB this
is not in any way a Russian intelligence service hit," he told BBC News.

London meetings

Before Mr Litvinenko's death, police said they suspected "deliberate
poisoning" was behind his illness.

Investigators have been examining two meetings he had on 1 November -
one at a London hotel with a former KGB agent and another man, and a later
rendezvous with Italian security consultant Mario Scaramella, at a sushi
restaurant in London's West End.

Mr Litvinenko, who was granted asylum in the UK in 2000 after
complaining of persecution in Russia, fell ill later that day.

In an interview with Friday's Telegraph newspaper, former KGB bodyguard
Andrei Lugovoi said he had met Mr Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel in
Grosvenor Square but vigorously denied any involvement in the poisoning.

Mr Scaramella, who is involved in an Italian parliamentary inquiry into
Russian secret service activity, said they met because he wanted to discuss an
e-mail he had received.

Speaking in Friday's Times, film-maker Andrei Nekrasov said that, before
he fell unconscious for the last time, his friend had told him: "I want to
survive, just to show them. The bastards got me but they won't get everybody."

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