Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
The Litvinenko case
“They’ll kill everyone whom they consider their enemy”
3 December, 2006
FAZ: Who killed Alexander Litvinenko?
AZ: That’s of course a question for the police, but I have no doubts that his former colleagues from the special services were involved, including his former colleague and boss Vladimir Putin. I don’t think much of the theory that it allegedly was done by a group inside the secret services, which intended to harm Putin. An operation on this scale isn’t carried out without the approval of the first person in the state.
FAZ: What would be Putin’s motive?
AZ: A former teacher once described Putin as small-minded, malevolent and unforgiving. I believe that Putin personally hated Litvinenko and couldn’t forgive that he had changed sides. In the world-view of these people, he had betrayed the homeland and the system. Livinenko was the first person of such high rank in 400 years of Russian-Chechen history, who publicly dealt with Russian war crimes in Chechnya. And not only that – he was collecting precise informations, names, data of operations. He was enemy no. 1 of the regime, a regime which consists for a third part of people from the secret services..
FAZ: But could he still be dangerous to Putin?
AZ: He had an enormous amount of information about the work of the KGB, the FSB – his own experience, facts, connections; he knew who is behind whom, who works for whom. He was the first person in Russia since Solzhenitsyn who experienced that one of his books was forbidden. That was his book about the background of the bomb attacks in 1999 on apartment houses in Russia, of which the Chechens were blamed.
FAZ: Why polonium-210 was used as a murder weapon?
AZ: They were convinced that the cause of death won’t be found, since there is no precedence for a murder by polonium anywhere in the world. Remember that Putin, at the summit in Finland, still declared that there was no evidence for a violent crime, so there was no reason for an investigation. After all, it took three weeks until it was discovered. The murderers didn’t expect that Sasha would survive for so long. In earlier trials with Chechens, who weren’t as extremely fit as he, the victims didn’t survive for more than 10 days.
FAZ: You are saying that previously to this, Chechens were already poisoned with polonium?
AZ: Yes, e.g. Commander Lecha Ismailov. He died in 2004 in Lefortovo prison in Moscow, with the same symptoms – loss of hair, internal bleeding, after he had been drinking tea with two FSB officers.
FAZ: Do you see a connection between the murder and the two laws passed by the Duma in July, about the “liquidation” of people opposing the regime?
AZ: Of course. And because of this, the Europeans shouldn’t pretend that this murder wasn’t to be expected. The Duma passed two laws in July, on the eve of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. The first one allows the government to liquidate “extremists” and “terrorist” abroad. The second one defines people opposing the government and regime critics as extremists.
FAZ: Litvinenko used to be a special agent, who was himself responsible of murdering people, too. Then he turned into an opponent of the regime. What kind of person was he?
AZ: In the middle of the 90-s, Alla Dudayeva, the widow of the first Chechen president, once told me that she was arrested and interrogated by a young officer, who didn’t fit into these structures at all. That was Sasha Litvinenko. I, too, have asked myself how someone like him could ever work in this system. Maybe some kind of rupture happened in his life. I learned to know him as a good, honest person. It is said that children are a barometer for a person’s soul. My grandchildren loved Litvinenko, that’s for sure.
FAZ: You saw Litvinenko on the day he was poisoned. Have you been checked for polonium radiation yourself?
AZ: Yes, but the result was negative. But there will be more checks, after traces were found in my car. And of course I visited Sasha in the hospital several times a day.
FAZ: Do you fear for your life?
AZ: I’m not afraid, because I have known since 1994 that I must be ready to face the worst any time. It isn’t so that I’m a hero or that I don’t want to live, but I know that fear is no guarantee for your safety. And I really wish to warn the Europeans not to think that these people will only kill regime critics and Chechens. That’s an illusion – they’ll kill everyone they consider an enemy. The Europeans should be afraid as well.
Questions by Christiane Hoffmann
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 03.12.2006, Nr. 48 / page 11