Dec 18 2006

Litvinenko Investigation Leaves Russia

It looks like UK investigators have all they need or can get from the Russians they wanted to interrogate with respect to the Litvinenko investigation, as they seem to be heading back to the UK tomorrow:

British detectives probing the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko have wound up their investigation in Moscow and are due to leave for home on Tuesday, a British police source said on Monday.

No details of what the Scotland Yard investigators had discovered were available.

Earlier, Russian agency Interfax, quoting what is said was an informed source, reported that the investigators had interviewed six people including Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy, who met Litvinenko in London on November 1, the day he fell ill with radiation poisoning.

Who the six people are is of some interest. We know three of them are Lugovoi, Kovtun and Sokolenko – three who attended the soccer game and stayed at the Millenium Hotel where Polonium contamination was detected. I would assume Lugovoi’s wife was the 4th person. But it might be we have two more Russians who were at the Millenium who also had contaminated rooms and have been identified. If this is the case I would not be surprised to learn one or more of these may have been in London at the other meetings in Oct between Lugovoi and Litvinenko.

What also has me interested is the fact Lugovoi and Kovtun still talk to the media, but are apparently assisting the authorities and of the questioning they have undergonr or their situation with respect to Litvinenko:

A key witness in the poisoning death of former Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko said Monday he has again been questioned by investigators probing the case.

“Today I met with representatives of the [Russian] Prosecutor General’s Office and the British police, and gave comprehensive answers to all their questions,” Kovtun, also a former security service agent, told RIA Novosti. He stopped short of revealing any details.

Let’s assume this incident does revolve around a Polonium-210 smuggling ring but the smugglers – coordinated by Lugovoi and Kovtun – were never notified of exactly what they were dealing with. I am sure precautions were explained and how to avoid detection, but the lethality of the material may not have been explained as well as it should be. This is the problem with smuggling rings. You don’t want the transporters running off with the goods so you tell them as little as possible.

Let’s also assume, now that these two are ill and basically busted, Lugovoi and Kovtun are turning on their masters and exposing what they can regarding the force behind the smuggling ring and all the details of all the meetings with these people (Litvinenko and Berezovsky especially). This would be a wonderful turn of events because it could mean resolution on this matter ASAP – which I am seriously hoping will happen. Again, making some wild predictions here, I would suspect UK authorities may have enough to start rolling people and turning them to make deals to catch the leadership of this incident.

The most critical imperative is to locate any remaining Polonium-210 stashes or destinations. Anyway, it may be things begin to break open a bit more on this case this final week before Christmas.

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Litvinenko Investigation Leaves Russia”

  1. Mike M. says:

    I hope the pursuit is successful……because Po-210 has a very short half-life.

    If it is to be used, it has to be used quickly. And I fear that the plans for its use are already in motion.

  2. Lizarde1 says:

    wouldn’t Lugovoy have travelled with a body guard? At least one?

  3. Gotta Know says:

    Test, jeez do I need to have an underlining?

  4. crosspatch says:

    One thing to keep in mind:

    The $10 million figure being reported is a fabrication. That is how much it would cost you to buy that much polonium if you purchased a bazillion legitimate point sources over the Internet. Polonium does NOT cost $1 trillion per gram. We purchase 6-8 grams a month from Russia and there is no way we are paying them a 6 to 8 trillion dollars a month for it.

    That $10 million is a bogus figure, ignore it.

  5. crosspatch says:

    I doubt this stuff would be going for more than 10 million a gram on the black market. If that is so, then the dose that killed Litvinenko would have been about a hundred bucks worth assuming the dose was 10 micrograms.

    Remember that there are legitimate industrial uses for the stuff so the cost can’t be too terribly high.

  6. mrmeangenes says:

    When the British press reports someone is “assisting the police in their enquiries”, it is usually shorthand for calling the person a suspect (quite actionable in Britain !)

  7. tempester says:

    I agree CP, yesterday the telegraph revealed that they came to that figure by working out how much it would cost to buy po from the US internet company that sells tiny amounts. Therefore estimates of the value were totally misleading.

  8. cathyf says:

    Remember that there are legitimate industrial uses for the stuff so the cost can’t be too terribly high.

    Are you sure about that? It has use in physics education because a) it’s an alpha emitter, and b) it has a half-life that isn’t too short and isn’t too long. The half-life seems way too short for any industrial use that I can think of.

    Normally this stuff isn’t separated out from uranium. When a college orders one of these $69 sources, what happens is that Savannah River (chemically) separates out a tiny speck from one of their fuel rods, embeds it in a plastic disk, and drop ships it to the college. Nobody keeps it in stock, because of the short half-life. And they are pretty much single-use sorts of things — you do a lab, and then for the next year you need to order a fresh source because last year’s source has decayed too far.

    As somebody (was it you, Gotta Know?) said on one of the other threads, it’s surely a first-class whodunit!