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Hi! Welcome to Vertigo's Fun House. Here, you'll find write-ups on unsolved mysteries and serial killers. Thanks for stopping by! It means a lot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Decemystery 16: Alexander Litvinenko

Litvinenko on his death bed.

Russia is an extremely touchy subject when it comes to just about anything and everything. Nowhere is that more evident than with their president: Vladimir Putin.

Putin has been heralded by some as a warrior and champion against globalism and the New World Order, and seen by others as a modern day Czar and one of the most brutal and terrifying figures in geopolitics. No matter how you see him, he's a controversial figure and one who's bound to insight some sort of argument on the internet.

What doesn't not matter is Putin's reputation in Russia itself. The public opinion of him there is extremely high—or so it seems. There are those who greatly dislike him for an array of reasons. For some, it's due to his handling of the Russian economy. For others, it's because he's something of a dictator in the eyes. Either way, Putin reacts as he only can. He silences his critics; a tactic that has been used on civilians and even FSB agents—the successor to the infamous KGB.

Enter Alexander Litvinenko.


Born August 30, 1962 (or December 4, 1962 if you believe his father), Litvinenko was a part of both the KGB and FSB. As a KGB agent, he was a counterintelligence officer. As an FSB agent, he specialized in taking down organized crime—and discovered connections between high ranking Russian officials and the Russian mafia. After bringing this to the attention of his superiors—and later the media—Litvinenko was promptly ignored. In return, he held a press conference, only to be fired and his unit was disassembled by Vladimir Putin, who personally requested his dismissal. Putin later stated in an interview, “I fired Litvinenko and disbanded his unit ...because FSB officers should not stage press conferences. This is not their job. And they should not make internal scandals public.”

Not long after, after accusing his former superiors of being behind the assassination plot of Russian Tycoon and Oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko was arrested and thrown in jail. However, he was subsequently cleared of all charges. A year later, he was arrested again on the same charges, only to once more be cleared.

In spite of an order not to leave Moscow, Litvinenko did just that in October of 2000,  fleeing to Turkey with his family. He attempted to apply for asylum at the United States embassy, but was denied. With assistance from Alexander Goldfarb however, Litvinenko bought tickets to London and, on November 1, applied for political asylum at an airport; officially being granted in May of 2001 on humanitarian grounds. Not long after, Litvinenko became a reporter and an author

During his stay in London, Litvinenko was subject to numerous death threats—and received several warnings about the danger he was in. In 2001 former colleague, Andrei Ponkin, warned Litvinenko, “You will either be brought back in a body bag or be pushed in front of a train”. The following year, in 2002, Mikhail Trepashkin warned Litvinenko that an FSB agent had been assigned to assassinate him.

The aspect that's put Litvinenko on the map—aside from his death—is his cooperation with, eventual hiring by, MI6. Litvinenko worked as a consultant for the agency—and MI5—in helping combat Russian organized crime in both the UK and across Europe. It wouldn't be until 2015 though that this would be confirmed when a public inquiry started. It was stated that he'd been recruited to provide, “useful information about senior Kremlin figures and their links with Russian organised crime”.

During all of this, Litvinenko had been an extremely vocal critic of both Vladimir Putin and the Russian government as a whole; revealing many dark secrets to Mi6 and within books he wrote. Now, using the all-mighty and all-powerful source that is Wikipedia—which has been my primary source for this entire miniseries—I’m going to list off what is on there in their “allegations” section. The quotes, and information in general, you will read all come directly from Wikipedia. I did my best to not appear as though I copy and pasted everything—something that I maybe should've worked harder on. I digress though; all credit goes to them and them alone.

1.  The KGB and FSB have sponsored terrorism around the world.

Litvinenko has been quoted as saying that “all the bloodiest terrorists in the world” were connected to both organizations. Some of these terrorists include, but are not limited to:

Carlos “The Jackal” Ramirez, who was led the siege on a semi-annual meeting of OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) officials in Vienna, Austria in 1975.

Saddam Hussein, the notorious dictator who was the target of the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

Wadie Haddad, who was leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a helped organized several airplane hijackings in support Palestine during the 1960s and 1970s.

Litvinenko stated that the above mentioned men, along with several others, were all provided with weapons, explosives, training, and were funded—among other things—by the Russian government. He later stated that, “the center of global terrorism is not in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or the Chechen Republic.” He also said, “The terrorism infection creeps away worldwide from the cabinets of the Lubyanka Square and the Kremlin”

After the London 7/7 bombings, Litvinenko was questioned as to where he believed the bombers originated from. He replied, “You know, I have spoken about it earlier and I shall say now, that I know only one organization, which has made terrorism the main tool of solving of political problems. It is the Russian special services.”

When Litvinenko was asked as to what he thought about a recently passed law in Russia that allowed them to perform “pre-emptive strikes on on militant bases abroad” and that those  “pre-emptive strikes anything but nuclear weapons”, Litvinenko was less than afraid to be blunt about what it all really meant.

“You know who they mean when they say ‘terrorist bases abroad’? They mean us, Zakayev (referring to Prime Minister of the still unrecognized Chechnya, Akhmed Zakayev) and Boris [Berezovsky] and me.”

2. The Armenian Parliament Shooting

Litvinenko accused the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General-Staff of the Russian military's of having masterminded the 1999 shooting that claimed the lives of eight people—including the Prime Minister of Armenia, Vazgen Sargsyan—and wounded over thirty others. Litvinenko stated that this was done in an attempt to detail a peace proceed to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Although the use of an AK-47 may have been convincing in the eyes of some, Litvinenko had no other proof to back this allegation up and the Russian embassy in Armenia called him out, saying he was trying to keep the conflict going.

3. Russian Apartment Bombings

The Russian apartment bombings of 1999—and was the subject for two of Litvinenko's books: Lubyanka Criminal Group and Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within. The bombings, which killed 293 and wounded over a thousand others, are no stranger to claims of being a false flag attack. Nobody ever claimed responsibility for them and the Russian government's claim that it was Chechen separatists has always been suspect at best. That said, it was enough to help fuel the Second Chechen War, which broke out not long after.

Litvinenko had accused the Russian secret service of planting the bombs used in the attacks as a means of helping Vladimir Putin get into power—a tactic that, if true, worked. Putin has remained a figure so powerful in Russia, he's been called q modern day Csar.

4. Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis

In 2003, Litvinenko accused the two Chechen terrorists—Abdul the Bloody and Abu Bakar—of having worked with the FSB during the 2002 Moscow theater siege. Litvinenko claimed that the FSB had “manipulated” the two into staging the terrorist attack. He also stated that, “When they tried to find them [Abdul the Bloody and Abu Bakar] among the dead terrorists, they weren't there. The FSB got its agents out. So the FSB agents among Chechens organized the whole thing on FSB orders, and those agents were released.”

It was later claimed that FSB agent, Khanpasha Terkibaev, played the role of Abu Bakar. Terkibaev was described by three other individuals: Anna Politkovskaya, Ivan Rybkin and Alexander Khinshtein.  In 2003, Litvinenko gave “the Terkibaev file” to a man named Sergei Yushenkov when the latter visited London. After leaving, Yushenkov passed the file onto Anna Politkovskaya, only for Yushenkov to end up dead; having been assassinated by an unknown individual. Not long after, Terkibaev would later be killed in Chechnya.

Speaker of the Russian State Duma, Ivan Rybkin, stated that, “The authorities failed to keep Terkibaev out of public view, and that is why he was killed. I know how angry people were, because they knew Terkibaev had authorization from presidential administration.”

5. Beslan School Siege

In 2004, Litvinenko speculated that the FSB perhaps knew of the Beslan school attack and maybe even organized it themselves to toughen terrorism laws and expand government power. He came to this conclusion due to several of the hostage takers having been released not long before the attack took place.

Co-chair of the group “Voice of Beslan”, Ella Kesayeva, agreed with Litvinenko, noting the same aspects of his argument. There's no word is Putin disagreed or not.

6. Russia's Connections to al-Qaeda

In 2005, Litvinenko made the claim that high-ranking al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been trained for a half year by the FSB in Dagestan in 1997. He stated that after this training, al-Zawahiri “was transferred to Afghanistan, where he had never been before and where, following the recommendation of his Lubyanka chiefs, he at once ... penetrated the milieu of Osama bin Laden and soon became his assistant in Al Qaeda.”

Former KGB and later writer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy backed up Litvinenko's claim stating that Litvinenko “was responsible for securing the secrecy of Al-Zawahiri's arrival in Russia” where al-Zawahiri “was trained by FSB instructors in Dagestan, Northern Caucasus” between 1996 and 1997.

Preobrazhenskiy later stated,

“At that time, Litvinenko was the Head of the Subdivision for Internationally Wanted Terrorists of the First Department of the Operative-Inquiry Directorate of the FSB Anti-Terrorist Department. He was ordered to undertake the delicate mission of securing Al-Zawahiri from unintentional disclosure by the Russian police. Though Al-Zawahiri had been brought to Russia by the FSB using a false passport, it was still possible for the police to learn about his arrival and report to Moscow for verification. Such a process could disclose Al-Zawahiri as an FSB collaborator. In order to prevent this, Litvinenko visited a group of highly placed police officers to notify them in advance.”

However, FSB spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko stated that al-Zawahiri was arrested by Russian authorities in December of 1996 and released in May of the following year. Whether or not you believe this depends on your willingness to swallow cow manure.


7. Assassination of Anna Politkovskaya

Sometimes cited as the allegation that got Litvinenko killed, this allegation was made two weeks before his death. Litvinenko even stayed that former Russian presidents candidate, Irina Hakamada, warned Politkovskaya about the possibility of her being killed.

Litvinenko had advised Politkovskaya to flee the country, though it's probably safe to say she didn't.

8. Romano Prodi

This allegation states that FSB deputy chief general Anatoly Trofimov told Litvinenko not to go to Italy as there are many KGB agents there, including former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi.

9.  FSB-Mafia Ties

In his book, Gang from Lubyanka, Litvinenko alleges that the FSB was used to protect drug trafficking from Afghanistan under the orders of Vladimir Putin. Subsequently, in December of 2003, Russian authorities confiscated over four thousand copies of the book.

Not long before dying, Litvinenko stated that Putin and Russian mafia head, Semion Mogilevich, have had a good relationship since 1993 or 1994.

10. Vladimir Putin: Child Lover?

The last allegation we shall talk about, this is one that I can thank my friend Tyler when I inevitably have nightmares for the next month.

Litvinenko made this claim when Putin was chatting with tourists during a walk in on the Kremlin grounds on June 28, 2006. Putin ended up kissing a boy on the stomach. The incident was recalled by Putin as follows,

“He seemed very independent and serious... I wanted to cuddle him like a kitten and it came out in this gesture. He seemed so nice,”

The little boy, Nikita, was later quoted as follows.

“I just liked him [Mr Putin] and he liked me very much. I want to be president myself.”

Aim high, kid.

These allegations stirred up a fair bit of chatter, but none can be definitively proven. Whole Litvinenko may have been a former KGB and FSB agent himself, we only on have his word to hang on.

Or, well, we did.

On November 1 of 2006, after drinking tea with two other Russian gentlemen, Litvinenko grew extremely ill, spending the entire night vomiting. Two days later, he was admitted into a London hospital, and was later transferred to another intensive care unit. It wasn't until a short while before he died that doctors found that polonium-210—an extremely rare, radioactive and toxic element—was the cause of his sickness; Litvinenko having been poisoned with a very high amount. Try as they may though, doctors couldn't save his life. Before dying however, Litvinenko was quoted as saying,

“You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world, Mr. Putin, will reverberate in your ears for the rest of your life.”

Prophetic.

In response, Putin had this gem to say.

“Mr. Litvinenko is, unfortunately, not Lazarus.”

By all accounts, Litvinenko's death is an open and shut case. He named his assassin's boss and, well, it's a no-brainer as to who would would want him dead. In spite of that however, we must still go over theories. Or, well, a conspiracy theory and the theory. The thing about Litvinenko’s death is that we’re 99% sure who did it, but we can’t prove it. As a result, this leaves the door slightly open for people to point the finger at others, though most are directed at one of two entity: MI6 and/or the CIA. For this blog, we'll say it's MI6

Indeed, Litvinenko’s employer prior to his death is, in the eyes of some, the real killer. Most, if not all, who believe this are either staunch supporters of Vladimir Putin or simply loathe the agency and don’t believe a word that comes out of the mouths of those who work there. The idea behind this theory is that MI6 had Litvinenko killed in an attempt to frame Putin or to tarnish his image/reputation—or to stir the anti-Russia pot that’s existed since the Cold War.

The biggest issue with this theory is why anyone would kill off one of the most vocal critics of Putin and the Russian government in general. The loss of information and secrets by doing such a thing is incomprehensible. In spite of that, there are those that espouse this theory and believe it to be the truth—and any attempts to sway them may or may not result in accusations of being a globalist shill.

The second theory, and the one that has a substantial amount of proof behind it, is that the Russian government had Litvinenko killed. In fact, it’s believed by most that it was Vladimir Putin who directly ordered him to be killed. Any need to explain why need not apply—I hope. If it does: you should re-read this entire blog entry.

It's believed the men who poisoned Litvinenko were former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. In spite of the attempts to have him extradited, Russia isn't willing to do so. Go figure.

That said: did Lugovoi and Kovtun kill him?

Yes. There's no question about it. The reason this is an entry in this miniseries is simply due to the fact there's no solidified proof that Putin was the one who ordered the killing. Though I personally think he did.

Alexander Litvinenko once said that the truth behind Putin's regime would only come about should it collapse or if the head of the FSB defected—both of which are extremely unlikely considering the iron grip Putin holds on Russia. On a similarly drab and dreary note: the only hope for the case being laid to rest is cooperation between Russia and Britain. Sadly, given the current political climate, that's as likely as a unicorn descending from the sky and singing like Roy Orbison.

1 comment:

  1. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezDecember 19, 2018 at 12:37 AM

    On an even more depressing note, Semion Mogilevich was for a while on the FBI wanted list. He isnt anymore because even the Bureau realized its impossible to get him. He walks around in broad daylight, because he knows full well nobody will dare do anything.

    ReplyDelete