Day: December 5, 2006

Mikhail Trepashkin

Mikhail Trepashkin is the only one of the people in Russia who investigated the 1999 apartment block explosions who remains alive today. All the others – the last of which was Alexander Litvinenko – have been murdered.

The British detectives who have gone to Moscow to investigate Litvinenko’s murder have been told by the Russian authorities that under no circumstances will they be permitted to interview Mr. Trepashkin, whom Moscow accuses of having betrayed state secrets.

Mikhail Trepashkin, who was arrested in 2006, is being held in a prison some 140 kilometres north of Yekaterinburg (formerly known as Sverdlovsk) on the eastern side of the Ural mountains. Although he is ill, he has been systematically tortured and exposed to extreme cold. He may soon die, and his testimony on the globally threatening events now taking place within the Russian special services, both inside Russia and in the world at large, may well be lost.

It’s possible to read about the Trepashkin case at this website.

See also in this blog: Release Mikhail Trepashkin

Akhmed Zakayev Interview

At chechnya-sl, Norbert Strade has translated from German an interview with Akhmed Zakayev:

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

FSB Led Poison Plot

Via The Times (UK):

Despite the comments of Yuri Chaika, the Prosecutor-General, intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the poisoning of Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service.

Security sources have told The Times that the FSB orchestrated a “highly sophisticated plot” and was likely to have used some of its former agents to carry out the operation on the streets of London.

“We know how the FSB operates abroad and, based on the circumstances behind the death of Mr Litvinenko, the FSB has to be the prime suspect,” a source said yesterday.

Intelligence officials say that only officials such as FSB agents would have been able to obtain sufficient amounts of polonium-210, the radioactive substance used to fatally poison Mr Litvinenko only weeks after he was given British citizenship.

London-Moscow Spat Deepens

As the Kremlin refuses British police access to Mikhail Trepashkin as a witness in the Litvinenko poisoning case (and also rules out the extradition of suspects), and Andrei Lugovoi checks into hospital again, RFE/RL‘s Newsline has some background items on the developing diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow:

Four London Metropolitan Police investigators began work in Moscow on December 5 and plan to speak to possible witnesses in connection with the unexplained death in London on November 23 of British citizen and former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, reported (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” November 27, and December 1 and 4, 2006). The investigators’ interest reportedly centers on former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi, who met several times with Litvinenko before his death. British inspectors also want to interview several other people, including former FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin, who began serving a four-year prison term in Nizhny Tagil in 2004 for allegedly divulging state secrets. But a spokesman for the Federal Corrections Service said in Moscow on December 5 that his department “will not allow a person convicted for divulging state secrets to remain a source of information for representatives of foreign special services,” Interfax reported. Russian officials previously pledged full cooperation with the British investigation. A lawyer for Trepashkin told reporters recently that her client has “information that may shed light on the murder [of Litvinenko], and he is ready to speak out.” PM

In Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on December 4 that he has warned his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, against anyone “politicizing” the Litvinenko case, Britain’s “The Times” reported on December 5. Lavrov also said that “it is unacceptable that a campaign should be whipped up with the participation of [unnamed British] officials. This is…harming our relations.” He added that he told Beckett of “the necessity to avoid any kind of politicization of this matter.” But also in Brussels, U.K. Home Secretary John Reid stressed that British police “will follow the evidence wherever it goes.” “The Times” reported on December 5 that unspecified “intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the poisoning of…Litvinenko was authorized by the [FSB]. Security sources have told ‘The Times’ that the FSB orchestrated a ‘highly sophisticated plot’ and was likely to have used some of its former agents to carry out the operation on the streets of London.” The paper added that an unnamed “source” told its reporters that “‘we know how the FSB operates abroad and, based on the circumstances behind the death of…Litvinenko, the FSB has to be the prime suspect’ in his death.” The daily argued that “the involvement of a former FSB officer made it easier to lure…Litvinenko to meetings at various locations and to distance its bosses in the Kremlin from being directly implicated in the plot. Intelligence officials say that only officials such as FSB agents would have been able to obtain sufficient amounts of polonium-210, the radioactive substance used to fatally poison…Litvinenko.” But unnamed officials of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) denied on December 4 that any polonium could have left Russia unaccounted for, Russian news agencies reported. The officials added that Rosatom exports polonium to the United States and United Kingdom but has no control over what happens to the substance when it arrives there. PM

Valter Litvinenko, the father of the late Aleksandr Litvinenko, told RFE/RL’s Russian Service in London on December 4 that his son converted to Islam shortly before his death. Valter Litvinenko added that “Sasha had been thinking about becoming a Muslim for some time because he was fairly critical of what had been happening in the hierarchy of our [Russian Orthodox] Church. Deciding to become a Muslim is, of course, a fairly unordinary decision and a crucial one.” The father said that his son told him two days before his death that he had “become a Muslim.” The father replied that “it’s your decision. As long as you don’t become a communist or a Satanist.” London-based Chechen Republic Ichkeria Foreign Minister Akhmed Zakayev told RFE/RL’s Russian Service on December 4 that Aleksandr Litvinenko told him of his desire to embrace Islam. Zakayev added that “I told him it was a purely personal question, that it isn’t important to which god we pray as long as we aren’t doing ignoble acts. And I sort of dropped it.” But Zakayev noted that Litvinenko repeatedly “returned to the subject. He pronounced the shahadah [the fundamental Muslim statement of faith], and any student of Islam will tell you that there are no particular rituals for converting to Islam. All you have to do is say one sura [a verse or chapter from the Koran] and, from that moment, if the person who pronounces this sura, this shahadah, has sincere intentions, from that moment he is considered a Muslim.” Zakayev said that on November 22, at Litvinenko’s request, Zakayev “brought an imam to him. The imam read over him a sura from the Koran, the one that is read over a dying Muslim.” On December 4, the Russian daily “Izvestia” returned to the theory that “Litvinenko was either involved in selling radioactive materials, or somebody was trying to build a portable nuclear device. It’s hard to find any other explanation for the presence of that much polonium in proximity” to him. The daily suggested that the polonium with which Litvinenko had come into contact would have been worth $40 million, which would have made it “the most expensive poisoning in history” had it indeed been a poisoning. On December 5, Britain’s “Financial Times” suggested that “prolonged exposure to Russian conspiracy theories can be damaging to mental health.” PM

Poison Letter

The Telegraph writes about the letter sent by the Kremlin to Britain’s foreign secretary “protesting” about the British government’s “failure” to prevent the publication of the contents of Alexander Litvinenko’s deathbed statement, in which he blamed Putin for his murder.

The implication of the Russian protest, that Britain could have gagged Mr Litvinenko, caused fury yesterday.

Dr Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: “In Britain, people are still free to speak, which is a lesson that seemingly needs to be learnt in Mr Putin’s Russia.

“At first glance, it [the Russian protest] is an outrage. But on a deeper aspect, it is symptomatic of a state that does not understand any longer the concept of free speech.”

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, joined the criticism, calling the Kremlin letter “absolute bloody cheek, frankly”.

She added: “The other thing I would say is that this is the playing out of Russian politics on our soil and it’s absolutely unacceptable.”