Day: December 10, 2006

The Only Reliable Lie Detector Ever Invented

The formidable Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post about “That Murder In London”:

The poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, renegade Russian spy and fierce critic of Vladimir Putin’s government, is everywhere being called a mystery. There is dark speculation about unnamed “rogue elements” either in the Russian secret services or among ultranationalists acting independently of the government. There are whispers about the indeterminacy of things in the shadowy netherworld of Russian exile politics, crime and espionage.

Well, you can believe in indeterminacy. Or you can believe the testimony delivered on the only reliable lie detector ever invented — the deathbed — by the victim himself. Litvinenko directly accused Putin of killing him.

Litvinenko knew more about his circumstances than anyone else. And on their deathbeds, people don’t lie. As Machiavelli said (some attribute this to Voltaire), after thrice refusing the entreaties of a priest to repent his sins and renounce Satan, “At a time like this, Father, one tries not to make new enemies.”

In science, there is a principle called Occam’s razor. When presented with competing theories for explaining a natural phenomenon, one adopts the least elaborate. Nature prefers simplicity. Scientists do not indulge in grassy-knoll theories. You don’t need a convoluted device to explain Litvinenko’s demise.

Do you think Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who was investigating the war in Chechnya, was shot dead in her elevator by rogue elements? What about Viktor Yushchenko, the presidential candidate in Ukraine and eventual winner, poisoned with dioxin during the campaign, leaving him alive but disfigured? Ultranationalist Russians?

Opponents of Putin have been falling like flies. Some jailed, some exiled, some killed. True, Litvinenko’s murder will never be traced directly to Putin, no matter how dogged the British police investigation. State-sponsored assassinations are almost never traceable to the source. Too many cutouts. Too many layers of protection between the don and the hit man

Read it all.

Second (and Third) Hospital Blaze in Russia

Via Sky News:

Updated: 11:11, Sunday December 10, 2006

Nine mental patients have died after a fire swept through a psychiatric hospital in the second major blaze in Russia in two days.

Hospital officials tried to put out the fire at the clinic in the town of Taiga in the Kemerovo region in central Siberia.

Emergency services were not called until 90 minutes after the fire broke out, a government spokesman said.

Fifteen patients were taken to hospital, said Valery Korchagin, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

On Saturday, 45 women were killed in a fire at a Moscow drug treatment centre killed 45.

Update: Authorities are naming arson as the most likely cause of the blaze, according to also mentions a third arson attack,on a mental hospital in Tver Oblast.


The Trepashkin Letters

The Daily Telegraph has published a report on the letters it has received from Mikhail Trepashkin, who is currently serving a 4-year prison sentence in Russia, ostensibly for divulging state secrets. The letters were smuggled out of Russia and passed on to the newspaper after Ltivinenko’s death. They were sent to him shortly before he died, warning him of a plot to kill him.

Since the Russian authorities have forbidden British detectives investigating Litvinenko’s murder to interview Mr Trepashkin, the letters now acquire even greater significance. An excerpt from the report:

Mr Trepashkin says that Litvinenko had refused to murder both him and Mr Berezovsky. He claims that there is an FSB document, entitled “Facts about an attempt on the life of Berezovsky”, that will confirm what he says. In a letter dated November 30, Mr Trepashkin describes how he met Litvinenko in October 1998 with FSB “hit men” who said the head of the secret police and two named generals had instructed them to kill Mr Trepashkin and Litvinenko by “breaking their skulls”. He adds: “Litvinenko was forced to flee to England to save his and his family’s lives. He did not betray his Motherland. He was hiding from the bandits who came to power.”

Mr Trepashkin is urging the West to put pressure on Russia to hold an open investigation into Litvinenko’s death and into his own “fabricated” conviction under state secrecy laws.

Bukovsky Criticizes Blair

Via the Sunday Times:

While Tony Blair is anxious that relations with Moscow do not suffer irreversible damage in the affair [of Alexander Litvinenko’s murder] , Russian dissidents insist he adopts a tougher line. Vladimir Bukovsky, the leading Russian dissident in London, said: “We expect the British government to respond properly. Instead, we hear that our so-called prime minister told his colleagues that the priority is to retain good and friendly relations with Russia.

“What is this? A licence to kill? An open invitation to come and murder anyone Russia wishes as long as we have positive relations. Prime minister, you are wrong. Your prime duty as prime minister is to defend the citizens of this country and its sovereignty.”

Marina Litvinenko: Russian authorities behind Litvinenko’s murder

Marina Litvinenko, Alexander Litvinenko’s widow, has said she believes the Russian authorities could be behind her husband’s murder. The Daily Mail has a long and exclusive interview with her. Excerpt:

She says: “Sasha was a very emotional person. He could blame Putin. Obviously it was not Putin himself, of course not. But what Putin does around him in Russia makes it possible to kill a British person on British soil. I believe that it could have been the Russian authorities.

‘I will tell the police everything I can’

“The Russian authorities have not yet been in touch with me yet but I know they are planning their own investigation. I do not think that I will help them with their investigations. I can’t believe that they will tell the truth. I can’t believe if they ask about evidence they will use it in the proper way.”

Instead, she is putting her trust in the British authorities. She says: “I have helped them and will tell the police everything I can. I believe that these are the people who will find out who murdered my husband and that is the most important thing to me.

“Now I will do everything I can for Sasha. I cannot be exactly like him but I can do everything to keep his good memory, the memory of a good friend, a good husband and a good father.

“Everything he did, he did it in full. In some way he was like a child. He believed people and he could only see the good in them.”

And it was that kind nature – the willingness to put his trust in people – that Marina Litvinenko believes killed her husband in the end.

The Sunday Times (UK) has a separate interview with Marina Litvinenko here.

And Sky News’s Kay Burley has another interview here.

The video of the Sky interview is here.