May 31 2007
Lugovoi’s sensational news was sensational– and unexpected. Basically Lugovoi is claiming Litvinenko was a British spy (which would probably make Berezovsky a MI6 contact as well).
Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian agent murdered in London last year, was working for British intelligence at the time, the man charged by Britain with his murder alleged on Thursday.
Andrei Lugovoy, whom Russia has refused to extradite to face charges of killing Litvinenko with radioactive polonium in London, did not say who he thought murdered Litvinenko but suggested that British intelligence was the most likely suspect.
â€œLitvinenko became an agent who left the control of (British) special services and was killed,â€ Mr Lugovoy, himself a former KGB agent, told a news conference.
â€œIf not by the (British) intelligence services themselves, then under their control or with their connivance.â€
Mr Lugovoy said Litvinenko and his patron, self-exiled billionaire Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, were both working for British secret services.
Should read ahead more often. So Lugovoi is claiming both Berezovsky and Litvinenko were spies for the UK. That is interesting given the two men’s ties and groundswell of support from the Chechen rebels and their repeated claims Putin was behind every Chechen incident in recent memory. Lugovoi suggested three possible scenarios at the news conference:
‘Today I am ready to make an announcement that should shine light on this dark political story in which the main role is played by British intelligence services and their agents – (Russian oligarch) Boris Berezovsky and the now deceased Litvinenko,’ Lugovoy said at a press conference in Moscow, Interfax reported.
Lugovoy put forward three versions of Litvinenko’s murder last fall by radioactive poisoning, calling the most likely of them a campaign by Berezovsky.
Other versions were that the British intelligence services or Russian mafia in Spain were behind the killing, Lugovoy said.
I am not sure what to make of this news off the top of my head. But clearly Lugovoi is making it clear the UK may have a bias regarding Berezovsky and Litvinenko:
Berezovsky, a formerly influential Russian oligarch who fled Moscow after prosecutors brought fraud charges against him, received political asylum in Britain after becoming an agent for MI6, Britain’s external intelligence service, Lugovoy said.
‘According to Sasha (Litvinenko), he was enlisted first, and after Berezovsky passed the English some documents on the Russian Security Council on (Litvinenko’s) advice, he also became an MI6 agent,’ Lugovoy said, adding that political asylum became a ‘technical’ question after that.
Now much of this is coming from Litvinenko – who was know to exaggerate and boast beyond reality. It is interesting to recall stories that Litvinenko was blackmailing Berezovsky. But how is it the UK can have as an agent someone like Berezovsky who has publically called for the violent – and non-democratic – overthrow of Putin? I can see MI6 working with Berezovsky in terms of information. Spies will get info whereever they can. But is it possible the Po-210 matter is being clouded by Berezovsky’s and Litvinenko’s work with MI6? Handing over some documents does not equate to the two Russians being cherished intelligence assets. But being dissidents in exile is an interesting cover, to be sure. Need to sleep on this one some more.
Update: One thing I am not buying into immediately is the idea that the UK’s MI6 was behind the Po-210:
At a dramatic press conference in Moscow, Andrei Lugovoy also said that Litvinenko was working for MI6 and tried to recruit him as a British spy.
â€œIt is hard to escape the thought that Litvinenko had become an agent who had escaped the control of the special services and they took him out, if not the special services, then those under their control, or those cooperating with them,â€ Lugovoy said.
It is that kind of wild claim that can push me into the assassination camp pretty quickly. The more plausible theory (a variation on something our reader Crosspatch has been proposing) is the one where Berezovsky took out Litvinenko:
Mr Lugovoy suggested Litvinenko may have been murdered by Mr Berezovsky, a fellow Russian exile and critic of President Putin, as he had information which would have question the oligarchâ€™s right to asylum in Britain.
He said that Mr Berezovsky had recruited Litvinenko to MI6 but that the two men had subsequently fallen out.
I am still not so sure, but it could make sense. The po-210 has traces to the Russian reactors which created it. But the Po-210 could have been intercepted outside Russia and meant to be evidence that would point back to Putin. Berezovsky is definitely rich enough to pull that kind of operation off. With the finger pointed at Putin’s government Berezovsky is one step closer to fulfilling his dream of toppling Putin.
The problem with this is why would Litvinenko go along with the it? He would have to have suspected Berezovsky and Lugovoi and everyone else. Seems this story became a lot more murky, and the idea of assassination a bit stronger. All the main players look dirty as hell in this one though, so I still think we need more of the details the UK authorities are sitting on.
Update: Lugovoi is actually claiming to have evidence of some sort of connection the the UK special services:
Mr. Lugovoi also said he has evidence of British special services’ involvement in the death. “Even if [British special services] hadn’t done it itself, it was done under its control or connivance,” Mr. Lugovoi told a news conference. Later, asked if he had evidence for the allegation, he said “I have evidence,” but did not elaborate.
You would think he would provide that evidence if it was strong evidence.