Month: January 2007

Conversation – X

Continued

How did they react when you told them you had been granted political asylum in England?

“They nodded understandingly, but that didn’t mean they were automatically bound to test for toxins. Why should they suppose that the patient had been poisoned by someone? At some point we ceased to understand why, if the doctors couldn’t find a complete explanation, they didn’t carry out some additional tests. And we turned to a toxicology specialist in America who wanted to take a look at the results of the blood tests. But all this took time – and the process was taking no time at all… He started to have an inflammation of the larynx, at first he complained of a sore throat. I had a look at his throat – and it wasn’t an ordinary inflammation, the kind you get with angina. I told the medical staff, and they said – well, it’s the antibiotics, they kill off all the healthy flora… When I came to see him on the Sunday, he could already hardly swallow or speak. I’d brought him some tea in a thermos – he couldn’t drink it, but it was important that it was there, because he believed he was getting a little better and would be able to drink it. It was a constant, terrifying struggle for life. Because he believed he was getting over it.

“On the Sunday they gave him some sort of throat medication for removing the process of inflammation after taking antibiotics. I said: ‘Will that be enough?’ By then he was already on a feeding tube, he couldn’t eat anything. On the Monday – this was already the second week now – he was no longer able to talk at all. And when he simply couldn’t move his tongue at all, that was so terrible that I just couldn’t control myself, I ran out to reception and started to yell: ‘What are you doing? When I left yesterday my husband could at least speak!’ At that moment all the doctors came running, they started to explain to me that it might a side effect of the antibiotic, though one of the indications didn’t fit, and it might be the wrong treatment. And then they said: ‘You know, we’ll have to test for hepatitis and Aids.’ They said that in cases of that illness the organism could react in a completely unpredictable way. Their approach was a traditional one, they went by the textbooks, and there was no one who could have kept an eye on the situation from the side. Of course the tests and analyses yielded nothing. When they left that day… My poor Sasha – this was horrible, it was very dreadful – when I passed my hand along his hair, the hair remained on my hand, or more precisely, on the glove, because all along they’d made us wear gloves and aprons so we wouldn’t get infected, if it was an infection. I stroked his head again – and this time it wasn’t just a hair or two, but whole strands. I felt really ill. Then I looked at his hospital pyjamas, at the pillow – there was hair everywhere. And then I started to say – why is his hair falling out? And again they weren’t able to give me an explanation. It might be a result of his weakened immunity. A day later I had my first meeting with the haematology specialist who was in charge of the cancer patients’ ward. He was the first person to tell me: ‘You know, he looks like a cancer patient after chemotherapy.’ And suddenly he said to me: ‘On the twelfth day the hair starts to fall out.’ I said it was twelve days since the day his vomiting had begun. Only then did they start to test his blood for the presence of toxins.'”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation

Conversation – II

Conversation – III

Conversation – IV

Conversation – V

Conversation – VI

Conversation – VII

Conversation – VIII

Conversation – IX

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Conversation – IX

Natalya Mozgovaya: Conversation with Marina Litvinenko – 2

[my tr.]

On the evening of November 1, Litvinenko began to feel unwell

“When the vomiting started that evening, it seemed strange to me, because we’d eaten supper together. But I supposed it might be some sort of infection. When we vomited a second time, I made a manganese solution, we washed out his stomach – but his spasms started again. And when it happened a third time, he said to me: ‘Marina,you have to get up at six to take Tolya to school – I’ll sleep in the other room, so as not to disturb you.’ At 2 am I fell asleep – and at six I looked in to see how he was and saw he was still awake. He said to me: ‘This is so strange: when we were studying at the military academy we read about symptoms like these – like the ones after a gas attack.’ I said: ‘Sasha, what are you saying?’ He replied: ‘Well, I’ve obviously been poisoned.’

“He had a feeling it was poisoning right from the very start, because of the intensity of the vomiting, but he tried not to let himself get hung up on what were after all only guesses. Perhaps it was a defensive reaction – after all, it’s a terrible thing to believe that someone has poisoned you. And when there is even the slightest chance of believing that it’s really some other illness that’s involved – you jump at it. Though in the course of two days he lost nearly all his strength. He said: ‘Marina, I’ve never felt so awful in my whole life.’ On the second day he said: ‘I can’t go on any more.’

“The sensation he had was simply of everything being turned topsy-turvy, he couldn’t get enough air, he kept asking for the window to be opened, though his body temperature was very low. Next day I brought him some medicine to restore the balance in his stomach – I’d decided that some kind of irritation had set in because of the vomiting, and his stomach wouldn’t even accept water. I called a Russian doctor, and he promised to visit us next day, but at night Sasha was again very poorly. He said: ‘Marina, I can’t take any more of this, call an ambulance.’ We dialled 999, that’s the number for the ambulance, fire or police services. The ambulance arrived at two in the morning. At the hospital they said: ‘It looks like an intestinal infection, what are you giving him?’ I said that I was giving him water. They replied: ‘Well, go on doing that. We can take him into hospital, but they’ll do the same thing there.’ They checked his temperature – it was about 35. I have no medical training, but it seemed to me that in infections the temperature should rise. In fact, there was no normal explanation for any of what was happening. So for that reason I don’t blame anyone, though I did think at first: what if they’d done this earlier? What if they’d found the toxin earlier? Later on they said he hadn’t had a chance right from the outset. Sasha was still complaining of abdominal pain – but they said it was caused by the spasms – that his stomach was contracting and the pain was coming from the over-exertion. And they sent him home. But from the very first day he didn’t have a single day without pain, except the last day, when he was already unconscious, connected to the apparatus and feeling nothing.

“The next day, when this Russian doctor arrived, it still didn’t make any sense. When the doctor touched his stomach, Sasha said it was very painful. The doctor said: ‘Well, it looks as though there’s been an infection, and now a process of inflammation has set in, this no longer something you can look after at home, take him to the hospital.’ When they finally arrived, and Sasha tried to get up – it was terrible, what could happen to someone who only had a short time left to live. He felt so dreadful that he simply couldn’t walk. At first he was very weak, exhausted by the vomiting. In the first week he lost eight kilograms. Then he just turned yellow – and when I asked why he was so yellow – again no one could give me any explanation. When they discovered a bacterium in his stomach which they thought the infection might have caused, no one could explain how it had been activated so suddenly, as it normally appears after a course of antibiotics. So what had been wrong with him initially? And again, it was a bacterium that causes diarrhea, not vomiting. In other words, they found explanations, but the explanations were never complete. Then they said it was possible that the antibiotic they’d given him had produced some side effect, because his blood test showed a sharp reduction in his immunity.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation

Conversation – II

Conversation – III

Conversation – IV

Conversation – V

Conversation – VI

Conversation – VIIÂ

Conversation – VIII

Elie Wiesel on Chechnya

From the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), which on January 23 this year was closed down following a ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court.

THE RUSSIAN-CHECHEN INFORMATION AGENCY

Press-release 2029 from January 18, 2007

Report from New York

Nobel Peace Prize Elie Wiesel laureate has sent his letter to President Putin with expressions of concerns about the possible liquidation of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society

On 17 January 2007 the Russian ambassador in the USA received a letter by Elie Wiesel – a Peace Prize Nobel Laureate – that is addressed to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. The copy of the letter was also sent to the US ambassador in Russia. The Russian-Chechen Information Agency learnt about it from David Phillps, the executive director of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Professor Wiesel expresses his grave concern about the growth of the authoritarian tendencies in Russia in light of the possible liquidation of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the deteriorating situation in Chechnya.

Elie Wiesel has survived the Holocaust. Being a Jewish boy from Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp and then to Buchenwald by Nazis in 1944. “Night” – the book of Elie Wiesel’s memories – is one of the most piercing evidence of the nightmare millions of prisoners of the Nazi death camps were subjected. Elie Wiesel is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction. President Carter appointed him the chairperson of the presidential commission on Holocaust in 1978. He established the USA Memorial Holocaust Council in 1980 and became its founding chair. Elie Wiesel devoted his life to protection of the defenseless. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in
the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University. He has been internationally acclaimed for his activities. Wiesel has been awarded by the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the USA Congressional Gold Medal, and the French Legion of Honour. He became the laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Elie Wiesel stated in his Nobel speech, “I have tried to keep memory alive…I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices…How naive we were thinking that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe”.

The editor-in-chief Stanislav Dmitrievsky
The editor of this issue Oksana Chelysheva

Conversation – VIII

Continued

Did the book change anything in Russia’s attitude towards your husband?

“It certainly did. If you look at what happened to the people who took part in its writing, in the gathering of the material – they’re not around any more, some have been killed, one person died in unexplained circumstances, another – in prison. But I was glad that Sasha was writing – in addition to the books, he wrote many articles, and he didn’t hide, didn’t disguise himself, he always signed them with his own name. I even used to tell him that it had probably been worthwhile leaving Russia, so he could discover himself in a new capacity. Yes, he was a good operative, but he had this kind of social circle there, they were all a bit abnormal… It was simply that in their system there wasn’t any room for people who were different. But here [in London] completely different people appeared. One of those people was Vladimir Bukovsky. A dissident and a former FSB man – those would seem to be incompatible concepts, but I can hardly remember an evening when they didn’t talk on the telephone. Sasha was like a child who had to learn to understand everything all over again, and I am so grateful to Volodya for always being open for us. I saw this regeneration, this rethinking in Sasha. And their friendship with Akhmed Zakayev… He would say: ‘Marina, just think, there will come a moment when the Russians will have to start talks with the Chechens; proper talks – and they won’t be able to find a single Russian person whom the Chechens will trust. But they’ll trust me.'”

Which Chechens?

“It’s clear that the Chechens who are now in charge are the ones who are advantageous to Russia, but among those who have dispersed around the world, Zakayev as before has very great authority – for the Chechnya which they really consider theirs, not the one in which portraits of Putin are hung up – the man who is up to his elbows in their blood.”

Did he sense any danger during the last months?

“The first signal was in July, when Russia said it will use force where it considers it necessary, and against whom it considers it necessary. I asked Sasha why he thought this was serious. He said, it means they will kill those whom they consider a danger to them, those who criticize them. It was just then that Blair went to the G8 meeting in St Petersburg, and Bukovsky and Gordievsky published the open letter in the British newspaper saying that no one should go, and that Putin should not be allowed to head the G8 for a whole year. And nevertheless the G8 summit took place – well, it means that gas and oil have more value than human life, and nothing can stop them.

When Anya Politkovskaya was murdered, that was the second very serious signal. I knew her a little bit, and Sasha was very close to her. He was very concerned, was always telling her: “Anya, come to Britain”, even tried to give her some instructions about self-defence – what to do when you enter a doorway. He herself was aware of the danger, he often talked about it. When he persuaded her to leave Russia, she said: “All these people – if I leave, who will they go to complain to?” Like Sasha, she understood that if she didn’t do it, then who would? Sasha believed she was murdered because she was a living witness of the crimes that had been committed in Chechnya. For him this was a very fundamental question – to understand who had done it, and why. Of course, he couldn’t a proper investigation, since he was in London. But he had some contacts, some understanding of the situation, and he clearly did something for that.

After Anya’s death he again started thinking about the existence of that hit list, he would say: I’m on that list, Berezovsky is on that list, and Zakayev, too…’ But even so, he spent more time thinking about Zakayev and Berezovsky, about the best way to guard Akhmed’s house… Even more so after we got British citizenship – he was so happy, it this seemed to him like a guarantee of his personal safety. He said: ‘They can’t kill a British subject on British soil.’ And he was wrong.”

You weren’t afraid that at some point the British would say: “We’re fed up with these Russian quarrels of yours, and now there’s radiation into the bargain”?

“That is a very serious point and we did have such fears, but it wasn’t seen as a ‘Russian’ quarrel at all. The British took it very seriously.

Sasha loved England very much, he had a British flag on all his denim jackets, it was almost comical… There were British flags hung up throughout the entire house. He was really very proud of it and very grateful. When he was in the hospital, we got so many letters of support – from ordinary British people whom we didn’t know at all. And the parents of the children at the school where our son is a pupil. After Sasha’s death, on 4 December, when we celebrated Sasha’s birthday with his father at a restaurant, we received the present of a portrait of him – it was standing on the table. A person we didn’t know approached, and he said: ‘If you are that family – please accept my deepest condolences – we are with you.'”

(End of Part I)

See also: Conversation

Conversation – II

Conversation – III

Conversation – IV

Conversation – V

Conversation – VI

Conversation – VII 

Conversation – VII

Continued

Did your husband have his papers with him?

“No, a passport had been made for him. We’d landed in London, and 15 minutes later Sasha approached a policeman and told him that he wanted to apply for political asylum. Alik [Goldfarb] suffered very badly as a result of this – for several months he was persona non grata for having helped illegal immigrants. We felt so embarrassed in his presence. Even now when he flies to America, he has to answer supplementary questions at passport control – there must be a mark next to his name… ”

“On November 1 2000 our new life in England began. We had to wait until May for our case to be decided, and when the decision to give Sasha and his family political asylum came through, that brought some stability, for before that there were constant attempts to extradite him, and he kept being called in for questioning. At the [Russian] embassy they knew where we lived in London. Not that that we were in hiding – but when mother came to visit me for the first time, on her return home she was held for five hours at the customs in Sheremetevo Airport, they subjected her to a humiliating search, undressed her completely, trying to find something, mocked her for five hours. And when they found a piece of paper with our address on it in her purse, they were so happy. Then people were sent from the embassy to that address to serve us with a court summons.

“But, no matter how strange it may seem, we felt very happy in England right from the outset. I personally never felt I was in danger, although Sasha would sometimes tell me not to let Tolya go out on his own. It wasn’t any kind of harsh punishment. He had no desire to change his appearance or keep a bodyguard. Sasha always used to say how safe he felt in London, though he realized he had not been pardoned, and that they would use any chance to try to get hold of him. He thought they wouldn’t dare to eliminate him in London, though he did see himself as a target for them. He was more worried for the safety of Berezovsky and Zakayev.”

What did you live on?

“Initially, Sasha got a grant for the book (Blowing Up Russia, N.M.). He was no businessman. He would say: ‘Marina, what sort of businessman am I? I’m an operative. I can create a security agency,’ – that was what he was trying to do in the last two years of his life. As for me, until I knew English I stayed at home. It’s only in the last year that I’ve started to give lessons to children and adults. But of course, it was Sasha who took care of the basic part of the family budget. He was very punctilious about things related to providing for his family. He was always trying to think ahead, to make sure he had work so there would be a guarantee of a year or two.”

Was he financially dependent on Berezovsky?

“He made a specific point of trying to find some sort of independent sources of income. So they remained great friends, and no one could ever understand that friendship of theirs.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation

Conversation – II

Conversation – III

Conversation – IV

Conversation – V

Conversation – VI

A. E. Opperput

Opperput’s real name was Pavel Ivanovich Selyaninov and he was to prove himself one of the Cheka’s most successful agents provocateurs. His unusual name should itself have aroused some suspicion at a time [the early 1920s] when the Soviet regime was introducing so many abbreviations into the Russian language. “Opperput” looks suspiciously like an abbreviated combination of Operatsiya (Operation) and Putat’ (Confuse): “Operation Confuse”.

from: Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story (1990)

Aslan Maskhadov was elected President of Chechnya 10 years ago

Via Prague Watchdog [my tr]:


Aslan Maskhadov was elected President of Chechnya 10 years ago

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – On January 27 1997 elections to the post of President were held in Chechnya. A convincing victory in them was gained by Aslan Maskhadov, the former chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI).

The presidential elections in Chechnya took place after the end of the so-called “First Chechen War”, which began in the autumn of 1994. The first military campaign in the republic, called a “restoration of constitutional order”, ended in August 1996 with the signing in Khasavyurt of agreements between Aslan Maskhadov, then still the representative of Ichkeria, and the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Alexander Lebed.

In January 1997 free democratic presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Chechnya under the aegis of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). The elections were conducted on the basis of the Chechen constitution adopted in March 1992, according to which the Chechen Republic was an independent democratic state.

Representatives of more than 20 countries, as well as the United Nations and the OSCE, attended the elections as observers. Many of the foreign representatives said that they had never encountered such a high turn-out of voters in elections anywhere.

“I remember that day as if it were today”, a Grozny resident who worked in one of the electoral commissions told PW’s correspondent in a recent interview.

“Hundreds of people gathered near the polling stations from early morning onwards. Many did not know how to vote, and so the republic’s central election commission had to extend the period of voting for an extra two hours. I have never again encountered the universal enthusiasm, the unanimity, the agreement and the almost festive mood that showed itself in people on that day. It was a national holiday. And the elections were possibly among the most open and democratic in the whole of history. Their results were recognized both by the international observers and by Moscow. One recalls that even the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, congratulated Aslan Maskhadov on his victory in the elections.”

Aslan Maskhadov gained a convincing victory in the elections, obtaining the support of more than 60 percent of the voters. The runner-up was the well-known field commander Shamil Basayev, for whom 23 percent of citizens voted, and third place was taken by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who had fulfilled the responsibilities of President after the death of Dzhokhar Dudayev.

In Moscow during May of the same year Aslan Maskhadov and Boris Yeltsin signed an “Agreement on Peace and Principles Governing Relations Between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian Federation”. One of the points of this document stated that the two sides rejected the use of armed force in the resolution of any disputed questions. In the autumn of 1999 Russia began a “counter-terrorist operation” in Chechnya.

In March 2005 Aslan Maskhadov was killed as a result of a special operation carried out by members of the Russian special services in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt, Groznensky district. According to one unconfirmed report, the Chechen President was deliberately killed after being lured into talks with the Russian side which were to take place with the mediation of a number of foreign countries.

Translated by David McDuff.