Day: November 24, 2006

Polonium

A poster has commented:

The cause of the poisoning is Po-210, see

http://glasstone.blogspot.com

Russian ex-spy murdered with alpha radiation with Po-210 in food in London

Incompetent medics failed to diagnose acute radiation poisoning from internal exposure to the heavy element polonium-210, the most deadly radioactive material on earth due to its short half-life of 140 days (plutonium-239 has a 24,400 years half life so each atom of that emits only one alpha particle per 35,100 years, which is a comparatively low dose rate – the average life is always 1.44 times the half-life with simply one-stage decay chain exponentially decaying radionuclides).

Notice Po-210 has a half-life of 140 days, and is a high-energy alpha emitter. Plutonium-239 for contrast has a half-life of 24,400 years so the specific activity of Po-210 (decays per second or Becquerels, per gram) is way higher. The shorter the half life, the more decays per second!Po-210 was used with beryllium as the neutron source (initiator) in the early 1945 nuclear weapons. Alpha particles hitting beryllium fission it, releasing neutrons. This was responsible for most of the deaths after the Windscale nuclear reactor fire in England in 1957. The pile was producing Po-210 for British nuclear bomb tests in Maralinga, but the government kept that secret, claiming that only iodine-131 had been released. (They didn’t want the Americans to know Britain was still using obsolete 1945 nuclear initiator technology!)

A Small Nuclear Bomb

What killed Alexander Litvinenko was, as his father has stated, a very small nuclear bomb.

The implications of this fact are disturbing. If a radioactive substance such as Polonium can be brought into the UK – by diplomatic mail, for example, or by air courier – there is a likelihood that more of it may be around in the country. For some time now, the government and police authorities in Britain have been warning about the possibility of a terrorist attack with a so-called “dirty bomb”. It looks as though Russia has become the first state to use such a weapon in such an attack – and there is a significant risk that it may use it again, in Britain or elsewhere, on a larger scale.

It will indeed be interesting to observe how Russian state propaganda deals with the discovery of the nuclear material in Litvinenko’s body, and in the restaurant where he ate.

Litvinenko: Health Protection Agency Statement

The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has released a statement in which it confirms that Alexander Litvinenko “had a significant quantity of the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 (Po-210) in his body.”

Additionally, Reuters reports that police have found levels of radiation in the London sushi bar where he ate just before he became sick.

Radiation found in Litvinenko’s Body

Via Sky News:

A large quantity of radiation, probably from a substance called Polonium 210, has been found in the body of dead ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The “major dose” of alpha radiation was detected in his urine, said Government experts, who added that Polonium 210 is only dangerous if
ingested.

EU-Russia Meeting Fails

Via BBC:

[..] Poland has vetoed the partnership talks and is refusing to lift its objections unless Russia ends a ban on Polish meat and vegetables.

Most EU members have tried to get Poland to change its mind, to no avail.

The BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Helsinki said the summit appeared to be doomed to failure before it had even begun.

Corruption in Chechnya

From Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

Compensation payments to Chechen citizens: problems still not solved

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – On November 14, Sultan Isakov, a high-ranking official of the Chechen government’s Compensation Committee, was detained on suspicion of extorting a large bribe, law enforcement representatives said.

Two days after this, in an interview for the Interfax news agency, Yuri Rosinsky, head of the FSB’s press service in the Chechen Republic, announced that FSB officials and the Chechen prosecutor’s office had implemented “a package of measures for the struggle against corruption in the institutions of authority and control.”

“Within the framework of these measures we have detained an organized criminal group which was extorting money that had been paid to Chechen residents as compensation for lost housing and property,” he said. “One of the group’s members, Emidin Khamatkhanov, was arrested while receiving 175,000 rubles from a resident of the city of Urus-Martan.”

According to Rosinsky, the evidence given by Khamatkhanov was used to detain Sultan Isakov, head of the secretariat of the Compensation Committee. The high-ranking official was accused of fulfilling the role of mediator and extortionist in the group. He allegedly dealt with the blocking of the bank accounts of uncooperative citizens who refused to pay a bribe, which could amount to as much as 50 per cent of the compensation sum (Chechen citizens are entitled to compensation payments of 350,000 rubles for housing and property lost in the course of military operations).

Names of other members of the criminal group were mentioned, in particular those of Ruslan Magomadov and Luiza Azimova, head of Rosselkhozbank’s operational department. This case of corruption among high-ranking officials threatened to become something of a national scandal. But only a few days after his detention, Sultan Isakov, who was one of the main suspects in the bribery and extortion racket, was set free. The Grozny district law court refused to issue a warrant for his arrest.

In addition, Isakov received the support of his immediate superior, Chechen prime minister Ramzan Kadyrov, who has personally headed the Committee in recent years. In Kadyrov’s opinion, Isakov was detained “without a proper basis of evidence.”

“An impression is being created that this arrest was a political act intended to discredit the republic’s authorities,” Kadyrov said in a statement distributed by his press service on November 17. “The detention of Isakov without any substantiating evidence is meant to create a negative opinion in the media and among the public about the situation in the country, and these actions are directed against the executive authority of the Chechen Republic.”

Isakov himself also claimed that his arrest had political implications. In his opinion, the main target of the action was Ramzan Kadyrov. “Kadyrov authorized an active operation to expose unlawful compensation deals. The ‘black hole’ that had come into being in the republic thereby disappeared, and now this is not to someone’s liking. My arrest was an attempt to discredit the executive branch in the Chechen Republic. What’s more, I’m certain that they wanted directly to blacken the name of the Compensation Committee’s chairman and present him in a negative light,” the official said at a press conference that was held in the building of the Grozny-Inform agency in the Chechen capital on November 20.

Nevertheless, the prosecutor’s office has announced that it intends to launch an appeal in the Chechen Supreme Court against Isakov’s release. Chechnya’s public prosecutor Valery Kuznetsov has stressed that the investigation of this matter will continue.

But many observers in the republic believe that the corruption case has little likelihood of success. “The Committee’s chairman is Ramzan Kadyrov. Isakov is his subordinate. It looks as though the prosecutor’s office is using the extortion case in order to get at the head of the government. But no one will allow that to happen,” a Chechen law enforcement officer believes.

“It’s no secret in the republic that ever since the payouts of compensation began in 2003 there has been corruption and open extortion. Officials have been taking 15,000 rubles as payment for preparing the necessary package of documents from people who weren’t actually eligible for compensation. After they got their compensation money from the bank those people also had to part with half of it, to the tune of 175,000 rubles. That’s the system that’s been in operation all these years, and it continues to operate. No official will turn down a ‘feeding trough’ of that kind,” he is convinced.

According to the officer, “big guys” and “big money” are involved. “Remember the arrest and trial of Baybatyrov (the former chairman of the Compensation Committee, who headed it in 2003-2004). He was accused of misappropriating more than 18 million rubles. But in the end he only got one-and-a-half years! That tells you something.”

Abubakir Baybatyrov was indeed arrested in November 2005 on charges of fraud and the misappropriation of a large sum of money. In June this year he was sentenced to
one-and-a-half years of imprisonment – not for embezzlement, however, but for exceeding his official authority.

A source in the Chechen presidential office says that from 2003 to the present day more than 46,000 of the republic’s citizens have obtained compensation for housing and property lost in the course of military operations. The Compensation Committee has received a total of 142,000 applications.

Three months ago the compensation payments were halted on the order of Ramzan Kadyrov. It was announced that this step had been taken because of the need for checks to be made on the legality of documents filed by Chechen subjects. Eli Isayev, the republic’s finance minister, recently announced that the payments will soon be resumed, and will be completed by the end of 2007.

Translated by David McDuff.