Dec 10 2006
Major Update: Well, one prediction of mine has been proven wrong. It seems Kovtun flew from Moscow to Hamburg first, and then onto London. One has to wonder why he would do this round-about route to get to London. Did he need to pick something up in Hamburg was he trying to provide an indepedent route for the material he was carrying?
Major Update: Some Polonium 210 must have come in from Germany with Kovtun since it is now pretty clear his trail begins prior to his trip to London:
German authorities said Sunday they have found traces of the rare radioactive substance polonium-210 at an apartment visited by a contact of poisoned ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko before they met in London.
Prosecutors said they were investigating Dmitry Kovtun on initial suspicion of improper handling of radioactive material, but said any connection with Litvinenko’s death was for British police to clarify.
Investigators said the Russian businessman visited his ex-wife’s Hamburg apartment the night before heading to London, where he met Litvinenko on November 1 — the day the former spy is believed to have fallen ill.
Litvinenko was killed by polonium-210. Gerald Kirchner of the German Federal Radiation Protection agency said at a news conference that tests on traces of radiation at the apartment “clearly show that it is polonium-210.”
Kovtun arrived in Hamburg from Moscow on October 28 on an Aeroflot flight, officials said.
This is some big news because the material is not coming in from Russia as suspected. As I noted below, there is a history of smuggling nuclear material out of Russia and Europe to the ME from Germany in the 1990’s (I will get a link here soon). So it would make sense this same network could reverse the flow now. And Oct 28th was not Kovtun’s first trip to London. He was with Lugovoi and Litvinenko on Oct 16th, which is associated with another hotel contamination in Knightsbridge.
Radiation was found on a couch where Kovtun is believed to have slept in his ex-wife’s apartment, on a document he brought to Hamburg immigration authorities and in the passenger seat of the BMW car that picked him up from Hamburg airport, police said.
This last item is also important. It seems Kovtun had simply stayed over between flights from someplace else on his way to London (thus the car contamination). And it seems the German police are being much more realistic in their reporting of events:
Prosecutor Martin Koehnke said Kovtun was not initially treated as a suspect because of the possibility that the polonium was inside his body.
Subsequently, Koehnke said, an investigation against him on suspicion of improper handling of radioactive material was begun “because at least at the moment, at this stage of the investigation, we have sufficient initial cause to believe that he brought the polonium traces to Hamburg outside his body, or that these traces are the result of contact with polonium 210.”
This confirms something else I have assumed – authorities can distinguish one form of contamination from the other. Therefore there is no doubt when something is being contaminated from a human vector (infected person) verses material itself being transported by someone (knowingly or unknowingly).
Addendum: OK, switched computers, had a crash and now recovering my research links. I am not going to try and synopsise these, instead I leave it for the readers to ingest. But these links give a picture of the nuclear smuggling history and paths.
First is this report on nuclear smuggling between 1995-2000 which speculates on the reasons for an apparent lull in activity during this period. Take special note on the Iridium smuggling into the UK that took place. And there was a case when material was smuggled from Russia into Germany which caused a big stir.
Second is this chronology of nuclear smuggling cases from 1993-1995. The third item of interest is this report on nuclear smuggling involving Turkey, which seems to be a gateway between Europe and the Middle East. The next link focuses in on a 2004 investigation in Switzerland regarding alleged nuclear smuggling activities. Next is this recent report regarding these same smuggling activities in Switzerland and how they relate to AQ Kahn’s nuclear black market activities which were linked to nuclear programs in Iran and Lybia. Next is a recent news report that one Boris Berezovsky is now under investigation in Switzerland for many laundering. Let me save here and see if I need to add some more links tying all this to Germany. But you will see Germany mentioned in many of these reports as one path of the smuggling paths used in the 1990s. The same time Kovtun moved to Germany to start his business. OK, one more on smuggling in general.
More: Here is a link between a German and AQ Kahn’s network, and here is a report from 1994 showing how Germany was the frontline for nuclear smuggling at that time. OK, that should establish the fact there is a case to be made this was a smuggling effort and a natural path was through existing resources and players. I would not be surprised to learn Kovtun had returned from some country near the mid-east on his way to London.
– end update
Details released by German authorities indicate Kovtun was trailing Polonium-210.
Hamburg- German prosecutors have opened an inquiry against Russian businessman Dmitry Kovtun for spreading radioactive polonium as he travelled through the city of Hamburg on October 30-31, senior prosecutor Martin Koehnke said Sunday. At a news conference in Hamburg, Koehnke said Kovtun was not yet being accused of the murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London three weeks later.
The suspicion of spreading a dangerous substance in Hamburg came after polonium-210 was found on a couch where Kovtun slept, on the passenger seat of a car in which he travelled and on an immigration document he personally signed at a German government office.
Â© 2006 dpa German Press Agency
The question now is how is it he did not get any in his own house. And of course we need to know when this was relative to Litvinenko’s poisoning. I have been researching smuggling paths for nuclear material and it turns out the Germany was in the 1990’s one such regular path out fo Russia. And of course there are paths to the ME as well. I would not be surprised if this Polonium-210 originated in Iran and found its way over old smuggling routes from the 1990’s into Europe. Experience ounts on these things. Kovtun and others could have been asociated with the export of material heading towards Iran and Pakistand and Libya.