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The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko

The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko On the 23rd of November 2006, former officer of the Russian Federal Security Secret Service, Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko died in University College Hospital, London, at the age of 44.

The cause of death was radiation poisoning, specifically lethal Polonium 210-induced acute radiation syndrome – which he was the first known victim of.  Litvinenko had been assassinated, but why and by whom?

Early Life Born in the Russian city of Voronezh in 1962,  Litvinenko was drafted into Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the age of 18. Five years later he was made a platoon commander in the Dzerzhinsky Division of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In 1985 he was recruited by KGB counter-intelligence and in 1988 was officially transferred to Military Counter Intelligence where he served until 1991. Litvinenko was promoted to the Central Staff of the Federal Counter-intelligence Service, specialising in counter-terrorist activities and infiltration of organised crime.

In 1994 he began moonlighting as hired security for the oligarch Boris Berezovsky which, while technically illegal, was overlooked as most such arrangements were.

In 1997, Litvinenko was promoted to the FSB Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups, with the title of senior operational officer and deputy head of the Seventh Section. The Directorate was by all accounts so mixed up with the criminal groups, it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. It was while in this position that Litvinenko's widow claims her husband learned of the many links between top brass of the Russian criminal fraternity and those in the highest positions in law and order.

These included Vladimir Putin who became Director of the Federal Security Service in 1998. Whistleblowing and Asylum On the 13th November 1998, Boris Berezovsky wrote an open letter to Putin in the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant in which he accused heads of the Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups Major-General of ordering his assassination. Four days later Litvinenko and four other officers appeared together in a press conference at the Russian news agency Interfax.

The officers confirmed Berezovsky's allegations and said that they had also been ordered to kidnap, intimidate, frame, and assassinate prominent Russian politicians and businesspeople. Litvinenko was fired immedtaley after the press conference under orders of Putin himself who stated "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." In October 2000, in violation of an order not to leave Moscow, Litvinenko and his family travelled to Turkey, eventually ending up in Heathrow Airport, London. There he applied for Political Asylum which he was granted in May 2001.

In England  Litvinenko became a journalist and author but he was also working for the British Intelligence Services, providing infomation on Russian organised crime across Europe. Recruited by MI6 as an informant in 2003, Litvinenko was given an encrypted phone and assigned a minder, “Martin”.

Litvinenko had been warned by old friends as early as 2002 that Russian agents had been given the order to kill him. The same year he was convicted in absentia in Russia and given a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for charges of corruption. At this time Litvinenko was making numerous claims publicly about the corrupt and underhand tactics used by Russia.

He claimed that many supposed terrorist incidents were in fact orchestrated or participated in by FSA agents, and that al-Qaeda agents were trained and supported by Russia. These claims were made in his books Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within and Lubyanka Criminal Group, and the reason for all these acts was, he stated, to bring Vladimir Putin into power. Assassination On the morning of the 1st of November 2006, Litvinenko met with two former KGB agents, Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy, in London's Millennium Hotel. There he was also introduced to a third man, "Vladislav Sokolenko", who Lugovoy said was a business partner. 

Later, Litvinenko had lunch at a sushi restaurant in Piccadilly, with Italian Mario Scaramella, who was engaged in investigating the KGB and claimed to have intelligence about the recently assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Later that day Litvinenko fell ill and was hospitalised.

In the twenty-two days before his eventual death Litvinenko lost all of his hair. He eventually died from heart failure after a heart attack, but not before issuing a final statement: “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". 

Putin made his own statement the following morning: "Mr Litvinenko is, unfortunately, not Lazarus". Traces of polonium-210 were alledgedly found in a house and a car Dmitry Kovtun had used in Hamburg prior to his meeting with  Litvinenko. British Intelligence also reported that they had discovered a teapot at London's Millennium Hotel which was highly contaminated with polonium-210. 

To date no one has been convinced of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, but an inquiry report released on the 21st of January, 2016 concluded that he was killed by two Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. Furthermore there was a “strong probability” these agents were acting on behalf of the Russian FSB secret service.

Paragraph 10.6 of the report stated: "The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin."