The Litvinenko murder
Translated by
Nils van der Vegte and Joera Mulders
April 28, 2012

Original appeared in Vesti Nedelni
Author: Andrey Kondrashov
Read the translator's introduction

Russia certainly deserves more positive coverage than it gets, but that doesn’t mean that all western criticism is completely unfounded. Even though it is often voiced in haughty manner and often rather ignorant of the actual local conditions, western criticism most often points at undeniable problems inside Russia.

Sometimes, however, western media and politics fail completely and collectively. The Litvinenko murder was such a moment. The story fed to the journalists was too good a sensation, to be assessed critically. Ex KGB spies, a dirty bomb, the deathbed letter accusing Putin. Wow! Never mind that the plot was more unbelievable than a Hollywood spy novel and most of the information originated from the circle around a completely untrustworthy oligarch in exile.

Below you may find a translation of a television interview with the victims father and brother. It was broadcasted on the 1st of April on Russia’s second channel, which many would refer to as ‘state television’. You are free not to agree to this 'Russian' version of events. But do read it and ask yourself which version of events you find the most logical explanation.

Part 2 was aired a week later and uncovers some of the secrets of Russian London in which Litvinenko was caught up and according to this version of events lead to his death. This episode features a new witness, now protected by the Russian Procurer General Office, Nikita Chekulin, who claims to have in his possession audio recordings detailing Berezovsky's operation in London.

It seems as if the heat is on Berezovsky now. Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Saturday said that on its request France has seized property belonging to London-based tycoon Boris Berezovsky worth 13 billion euros.Perhaps Berezovsky will finally take the fall. But if that would happen, the world will also learn it got played by the man, big time. For the British authorities especially that would be quite an embarrassment.

On April 1 the British Telegraph published an article about a contract hit that was allegedly being prepared on one of the leaders of the Chechen separatists Akhmed Zakayev ( the Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), a government in exile, JM). The source: MI5. Zakayev currently lives in Great Britain and has strong ties to Boris Berezovsky, a well-known master of provocations. In the mean time, the hearings in London about the killing of former FSB officer Alexandr Litvinenko are to be resumed, notably at the moment when seven years later the Polonium and its chemical traces have completely disappeared. What’s more, close relatives of Litvinenko, his father and brother are not allowed to partake in the hearings. Today they will disclose details that will completely overturn the so called Litvenenko murder.

Senigallia is a quiet Italian seaside resort on the coast of the Adriatic sea. After the death of Litvinenko part of his family moved there. At the time they had been convinced that Russia had become a too dangerous place for them. Even though the Polonium trail never lead to Senigallia, the trail of the scandal itself, the legal case and its lies leads us there today.

Alexandr Litvineko’s younger brother Maksim has fancied the Italian coastline, ever since the first time he came their as a schoolboy on an exchange trip. He was the first of of the family to leave Russia, long before the problems of his elder brother started.

Only when Alexander moved to London, he called his younger brother in Italy and came to visit him. Alexander often said that ‘they would return to Russia on a white horse’. And that would happen because of a heroic figure: Boris Abramovich (Berezovsky).

Alexander loved him foolishly: ‘We will go to Moscow. The boss Boris Abramovich (Berezovsky) and I. He will be president and I will be minister. We will go out into the streets and collect money.” remembers Alexander’s brother Maksim Litvinenko.

Alexandr often boasted that Berezovsky owed him big time. Drunk with his bosses stories about an imminent revolution in Russia, Alexander seriously expected a key spot in the government. But suddenly the dream fell apart. Cutting down on his expenses Berezovsky reduced the allowance of his future minister from 4500 to 1500 pounds a month. Litvinenko felt insulted and complained with his father, Walter Litvinenko. “I rescued him several times and now he lets me starve, even though he has so much money.”

On the phone to his brother Maksim Alexander said: ‘This is it. I will never again work for someone else. I don’t want to know anyone anymore’. He was really furious.

Abandoned by Berezovsky, Litvinenko was forced to make his own living. He offered his services to British secret services and tried to trade in Russian gas. But when both didn’t work out, he ordered his archives and decided to go back to Moscow. He wanted to trade in information.

He knew a lot and especially about Berezovsky, father Walter says.

Did he know about politics, the journalist asks.

He knew for example the inside story how someone tried to poison Berezovsky with a pen. That piece of theatre was scripted especially so that Berezovsky could stay in England, Walter Litvinenko says.

Alexander told his family the story about how his boss got his political asylum. It was Alexander who arranged the statements by a Kazakhstan citizen who had supposedly come to London to liquidate Berezovsky. Litvinenko related the story to his brother with pride.

‘We drove him in a car to some city and began to threaten him: Who sent you? And in the end he told us that the KGB, the FSB had taken his family hostage and that he should travel to London and stab Berezovsky with a pen.’ If the whole story had been fabricated, it must have been very dangerous. And that is just the asylum case. There are many other deals, including business still in Russia. Alexander and Berezovsky have known each other for a long time, Maksim says.

As Alexander becomes more and more determined to go to Moscow, his family becomes seriously concerned. To assist Berezovsky is one thing, to threaten him is another. Only two weeks later the family receives the news that Alexander is in the hospital. The diagnosis, by the way, was quite regular. Until Akhmed Zakayev corrected the doctors.

‘Food poisoning the doctors said, but then came Akhmed and suggested that he could have been poisoned’, father Walter remembers.

What struck Walter when he came to see his son in London was that Alexander was completely bold. ‘They shaved him. They said that his hair had began to fall out and that they shaved him. I know that they shaved him,’ Maksim says.

Even if we assume that Litvinenko had been subjected to ionizing radiation, then hair loss would have been among the symptoms that appear only after the first week. Hair loss would have to be accompanied by skin ulcers, which Litvinenko did not have. We cannot know if his hair had been normal, as he had been shaved. Why, we may ask. These two spectacular images were spread all over the world by the well-known PR company Bell Pottinger. Of course no newspaper explained how Litvinenko’s head had been prepared by Zakayev’s maid, who according to brother Maksim, had been asked to come to the hospital with a razor. And after that, Berezovsky’s partner Alex Goldfarb, whispered in father Walter’s ear the secret about the polonium.

‘It was me who first mentioned the polonium’, Walter says. ‘At a spontaneous rally I told the press how a small atom bomb had been flown in and how my son had defended the British from the threat of radiation with his life. Goldfarb, who stood behind me, tried to warn me aggressively. They clearly weren’t ready yet. I had spoken out too early. I think that perhaps there were no traces yet, perhaps they had to do some things first. It is interesting to see to what dates the traces in the stadium and airplane will be attributed. It is important to know at what dates these spots were checked.’

Walter Litvineko’s testimony shows that Alex Goldfarb knew about the polonium sooner than Scotland Yard. Moreover, the father suggests that his son may have been poisoned first, after which the polonium footprints were left at the necessary spots. This information may refute the conclusions of the British investigation, but as long as its materials remain classified that cannot be checked.

How did the polonium traces end up in Sasha’s neck, on his clothes, when he had only drank tea? How can it be that polonium traces where left on the entire route and sprinkled on Lugovoy and the others, Walter Litvinenko argues.

By the way, the Russian General Prosecutor General’s office has on numerous occasions asked for the autopsy results, but the British authorities never released them. It is still unknown whether polonium traces where really found in Litvinenko’s body. His father, who is a doctor himself, claims that while his son was still alive the analysis never showed proof of radiation. What has been officially stated is that the isotope was discovered in the urine, collected after Litvinenko’s death from the reservoir under his bed.

There was a plastic bottle. With a syringe anyone could have injected something into that bottle, Maksim thinks.

Maksim believes that anyone could have poisoned his brother. And the polonium was needed to leave traces all over London, to make the FSB the prime suspect and to create a scandal for the entire world.

‘We have no doubt that Putin approved this operation personally’, Alex Goldfarb stated. Goldfarb is now the author of a book about Litvinenko ‘Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB’, which has been translated in ten languages and distributed all over the world. In his biography Goldfarb describes himself a dissident, who emigrated to the United States in the seventies, taught at the University of Columbia and after the collapse of the Soviet Union returned to Russia to head projects funded by George Soros.

Goldfarb was Berezovsky’s man and together they were with Soros. I still think this whole story has its origins in the United States. And unfortunately Sasha got mixed up in their games, Maksim Litvinenko says.

‘Even Akhmed (Zakayev) told me that Goldfarb is CIA, a bad guy. It seems to me that Sasha disturbed him. Sashka even hinted to me about this before he died. Sasha really didn’t know who poisoned him, but he was afraid, afraid for his family, afraid for me’, Walter Litvinenko remembers.

Alex Goldfarb by the way omitted an interesting fact from his biography. Before his emigration to the United States he worked at the Kurchatov Institute for Atomic Energy, the one place in the USSR where they surely knew what radioactive isotopes are. Goldfarb nevertheless prides himself with being the person to whom Litvinenko dictated his deathbed letter accusing Putin of his poisoning. Here you can see it, in English, with the autograph of its author. And now a sensation from these main witnesses: Up until the end Litvinenko hoped to survive. He still asked: ‘Will I be able to walk again? Of course he did not want to die. All the more, this letter in English is simply ridiculous. Alexander did not speak English at all”, Maksim says.

While he was still conscious, the father confirms, Litvinenko could not bring himself to think of final statements. And his clinical death was too sudden.

‘He died in my arms. I cried and screamed. There was no one. And then all came in to try and reanimate him. That was it. He did not speak no more. This letter is complete nonsense. There was no such letter and nothing about which to write such things.’

The boys simply wanted a scandal, Walter Litvinenko says.

Who was the mastermind behind the letter, the journalist asks?

Alex, probably or someone else. Akhmed wouldn’t do such a thing. Either Boris or Alex, Walter Litvinenko thinks.

Alex Goldfarb’s reading of the letter to the press coincided exactly with the EU-Russia summit. In general everything from the funeral onwards, the relatives remember, was turned into one big press conference. Even during the wake Berezovsky lined up reporters to give statements. Boris Abramovich was very energetic and full of praise.

And not only Berezovsky. Nevzlin and the rest of that group were also there. All of them could have poisoned Sashka. Walter Litvinenko is convinced that they needed Sashka dead, not alive,

The next hearing in the Litvinenko case will be held in April. Neither the father, nor the brother is invited to testify.


Part 2: Berezovsky’s machinations: trouble in London

Aired on the 8th of April.

On the 4th of April, the Simonovsky court in Moscow ordered Boris Berezovsky to pay nearly a billion rubles (adjusted for inflation) to the authorities in Samara for the damage he inflicted on AvtoVaz in 1995. By using his holding, LogoVaz, as an intermediary, Berezovsky managed to sell 20.000 cars produced by AvtoVaz. AvtoVaz, however, never received the money. In this programme many details about Berezovsky’s political machinations will be revealed for the first time. The crown witness of this scam will explain how the fugitive oligarch created the myth about the apartment bombings ( Even the announcement of this story has already caused quite a stir in ‘Russian’ London.

The man who approached the Editor of Vesti with the news of the week in his suitcase, is currently in a witness protection programme as he is seen as a particularly valuable witness. The man disclosed that in this particular suitcase, the meaning of life can be found.

‘This book (the witness shows a book) has it all: facts, eyewitness accounts of the events, including from insiders. All material is supported by audio recordings of telephone conversations which I kept safe in England for a long time” Nikita Chekulin says.

That is his name, Nikita Chekulin. For two years, he was a member of Berezovsky’s inner circle in Londen. Until he was suddenly thrown out.

‘In 2000 I worked as the acting director of the ‘Research Institute for the Utilisation and Conversion of Explosive Materials осконверсвзрывцентр), which was overseen by the Russian Ministry of Education’, Chekulin says.

At that time, the institute came under suspicion for illegal traffic of explosives. The former director had just resigned and the new one was implicated in this case. Chekulin was facing time in prison, but suddenly a benefactor called.

‘Boris Berezovsky made me an offer and I accepted’ Chekulin admits.

At that time Berezovsky’s (already in exile) main priority was to convince the world that the recent bombings in apartment buildings were the work of the FSB. A book had already appeared in the United States and two French producers had made a documentary called ‘The assassination of Russia’. Berezovsky never missed an opportunity to tell his version of the events to the press.

In 2002 Berezovksy told the press how a year ago he had started an independent investigation and how he could now announce the results: The apartment bombings were organized by the FSB.

The press, however, met his claims with scepticism or at least complained of a lack of evidence. But then an actual director of some Russian scientific institute appeared, an expert on explosives. It did no longer matter that such explosives are normally used to blow up rocks. What mattered was that this director was being pursued by ‘the regime’ and that fled to London he would now tells us all about the FSB. The press conference wasn’t held ‘just anywhere’ but in Whitehall, close to the government centre. Hundreds of reporters showed up.

‘Berezovsky’s offer was that I would speak at the conference. The text had been written by Alexander Goldfarb. Because I was unknown to anyone, I immediately drew the attention of all the cameras and reporters, who were surprised to see me. Berezovsky used me and my statement as a “makeweight”, to strengthen his allegations about the FSB’, Nikita Chekulin says.

Chekulin’s statement focussed on the theft of explosives from his research institute. Berezovsky claimed that these explosives were used by the FSB in the apartment bombings. Whilst Chekulin was reading his story, pictures of blown-up buildings and footage from the french documentary were projected on the wall behind him. Everything went according to plan. Even though the organiser of the press conference himself did not believe what was said.

‘Litvinenko once confessed to me that Berezovsky never believed that the FSB blew up the apartments. Moreover, when I suggested Berezovsky to do a real investigation into objective facts, he did not agree. I believe he refused because he knows who are the true organisers of the bombings”, Chekulin continues.

For his invaluable services Alex Goldfarb provided Chekulin with a monthly allowance. Chekulin could remain in London and assist Berezovsky.

‘Was Berezovsky satisfied?’ (Reporter)

‘Not completely. I think my ultimate function was to have the same fate as Politkovskaya or one of the other ‘sacred victims’, such as Litvinenko, Sergey Yushenkov or Paul Klebnikov. All their deaths were in one way or another used by Berezovsky for his own purposes.

‘Do you mean that a similar faith awaited you?’ (Reporter)

‘I understood that this is indeed what they were preparing for us, when Alex Goldfarb told me that it was decided that my stay in London would not be extended much longer than two months.’

(The program shifts to Alexander Lugovoy)

According to Andrey Lugovoy, the series of suspicious deaths had to continue. He recalls how, during a visit to London, shortly before the poisoning of Litvinenko, Berezovsky called him for the first time in five years.

‘Berezovsky called me and invited me to a meeting. I decided to go and during this meeting we had a very strange conversation about Elena Tregubova. Berezovsky asked me: ‘Andrey, would it be possible that your security company can help us guard her? ‘I was surprised by this question because her security was not his responsibility’, Andrey Lugovoy told Vesti.

Elena Tregubova, a journalist of the Kommersant newspaper, had written a book called ‘Tales of a Kremlin Digger’, which was critical of the government. Tregubova herself was so frightened the books publication that she moved to London. Lugovoy did not immediately understand why Berezovsky, who would normally handle higher sums of money, would discuss a job worth a meagre 50.000 dollars. Lugovoy, by the way, agreed, but Tregubova suddenly left London for a vacation.

‘I would like to remind you that three weeks earlier, Politkovskaya had been killed. Three weeks later Litvinenko was poisoned. I believe that if we had provided Tregubova with protection then something would have happened to her, making her part of the chain of deaths, attributed to Putin or the former KGB, which is by the way my former employer. I therefore believed that these holidays saved her life’, Lugovoy states.

Berezovsky did not manage to kill Tregubova, but he did kill Litvinenko, Lugovoy thinks. It was after his visit to the office of the oligarch, after having sat down in the chair pointed out by his host, that the former intelligence officer begins to leave a trail of polonium.

‘No polonium was found on the seats of the plane with which we (Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun) travelled from Moscow to London. Traces of polonium, however were found on one our seats on the flight home. Another fact that conveniently forgotten is that traces of polonium have been found at places where I have never been such as the company Titan International and the copy machine in Berezovsky’s office’, Lugovoy testifies.

It is noteworthy that when, after returning to Moscow, Lugovoy heard that he was being suspected of poisoning a British citizen, he immediately phoned Litvinenko. Litvinenko however, never said that he suspected his former colleague of poisoning him. According to Lugovoy, this would not have made sense: On his ill-fated trip to London Lugovoy was accompanied by his wife and kids. They came to see a a football match. It is highly unlikely that an agent would take a radioactive isotope to a tea party where, besides his colleague Dmitry Kovtun, also his own children would be present.

‘First, It was just the three of us. Then my daughter and son arrived. They sat very close to us. They even met Litvinenko. A British journalist told me that I used my family as a cover up story. I told him that he was crazy. My child was eight years old at that time. Do you really think I would use him as a cover? What a nonsense”, Lugovoy attests.

Lugovoy says that until his very last moment Litvinenko tried to find ways to earn himself some money, not stopping to blame his boss for having cut his allowance.

I overheard several telephone conversations between Berezovsky and Litvinenko, during which the later said: ‘Boris, you should be ashamed of yourself. I helped you will political asylum and many other things. Why do you deprive me of my salary?’ Of course, I should also state that Litvinenko knew too much. For Berezovsky he was a dangerous witness’, Lugovoy says.

The method with which Berezovsky received his political asylum in Britain features as one of the main episodes in Chekulin’s audio recordings. According to Chekulin, the revelation of this operation that included a fake killer, who could be revealed as being sent by the FSB to kill Berezovsky, is one of Berezovsky’s greatest fears.

From my audio recordings it follows that it was Berezovsky who scripted the entire operation and that he organised it himself together with Goldfarb and Litvinenko. I will publish some of these recordings to protect myself, but of course my situation will remain dangerous’,Chekulin says.

Chekulin tells us how Berezovsky, fearing extradition to Russia, personally assigned him to find a person in London who could be revealed as a killer, sent by the FSB to eliminate Berezovsky. Chekulin found a suitable person, by coincidence, at one of the press conferences.

A man approached me and Litvinenko. Vladimir Terlyuk was tall, stately man wearing a grey suit’, Nikita Chekulin remembers.

The next day Berezovsky’s assistants informed their boss about the potential candidate for the role of phony hitman. Nikita Chekulin recorded the conversation:

Boris Abramovich’ – Nikita Chekulin starts

Yes, my man’ – answers Boris Berezovsky

Good day. That man from yesterday evening just contacted me’, Nikita Chekulin says

Which one, Nikita?’ Boris Berezovsky asks.

Let us call him the devil’ Nikita Chekulin answers

Hello, I cannot hear you’, says Berezovsky

The man we (Chekulin and Litvinenk) informed you about yesterday’, answers Chekulin

Yes’, Berezovsky continues

Later in court, Berezovsky would deny that he knew this man. This secret recording however suggests that Berezovsky was informed by Chekulin about the man who Litvinenko was about to ’hire’.

‘He has contacted us. I want your opinion. What should I do? Sasha suggests giving him a telephone so that he can communicate with him.’

Well, give him the telephone. I do not see any problems,’ Berezovsky answers

So you agree to let Sasha handle it from here?’ Nikita Chekulin asks.

Yes, absolutely! The most important thing is that it cannot be done by either you or me. He has a British passport. If he has good contacts, let him do it.’ Boris Berezovsky answers.

I completely agree with you. But I act only in your best interests, so I first consult with you.’ Nikita Chekulin says.

And I act only in yours.’ Boris Berezovsky answers.

‘Mutually’. Nikita Chekulin says.

That is all.’ Boris Berezovsky concludes.

The phoney hit-man Vladimir Terlyuk was first shown at (Russian TV program) ‘Vesti Nedeli’. This was five years ago. The camera showed only his back and, at his request, his voice had been altered. Terlyuk described how Litvinenko had forced him to state that he had been sent by the FSB to kill Berezovsky, using some kind of nerve agent. That’s vintage Berezovsky’s and Goldfarb.

Terlyuks mission was to enter the court room at the moment it was considering Berezovsky’s request for political asylum. He was to use a special pen filled with a poison and sprinkle it on Berezovsky’s clothes and shoes. The theory was that after Berezovsky came back from smoking a cigarette the combination of the cigarette smoke and the poison would cause Berezovsky to drop dead in the middle of the court room. That second part of course would never happen. It was complete finction and Terlyuk had been set up. Nevertheless, these people managed to receive the status of political refugees.’ Nikita Chekulin states.

Knowing all of this, the resented Litvinenko was making plans to leave to Russia.

Litvinenko was directly involved in all these ‘provocations’ by Boris Berezovsky and that was the reason why he had to be eliminated. So there is the story behind the polonium poisoning. Berezovsky had prepared this special operation himself.

At stake was not just Berezovsky’s political asylum. He had committed a criminal offence in Britain. Boris Abramovich (Berezovsky) would have been locked in on an island in Scotland in solitary confinement for fifteen 15. That is why Berezovsky and Goldfarb were the ones who profited the most from Litvinenko’s death’, Andrey Lugovoy testifies.

A false testimony to the court (Not disclosing the fact that Berezovsky knew the man that has supposedly come to kill him) is a serious crime. Up to seven years in a British prison for lying to a British court and up to six according to the Russian law. If you want to know my opinion: I think he should sit in a British prison for seven years and after that, he should be sent to Russia.’ Nikita Chekulin states.

Chekulin continues by saying that he has many hours of recorded conversations in his ‘war chest’. While still in London the British authorities had seized his passport on on request of Berezovsky. After he miraculously managed to get his passport back, Chekulin fled from London and immediately digitalised and multiplied his records, which he managed to hide in various parts in Russia. He has left written instructions . Just in case. His family has already been attacked, even in Russia. But Chekulin is waiting for his hour.

I have no illusions about the British justice system, but times chance. Fate will not always be kind to people like Berezovsky and Goldfarb. Sooner or later, their kind of people will have to bear responsibility for their actions’, Nikita Chekulin says.

Meanwhile in London, Vladimir Terlyuk has said that he will have to change his place of residence as he fears for his life. His current apartment is too exposed for snipers.

  • Pecunia Nonolet

    This sounds like a typical desinformation campaign “KGB style”. Don’t believe the crocodile tears of Mr. Litvinenko Sr. Ask Marina!
    BB owning 13 billion in real estate in France? He wish he had such of real estate portfolio!! It’s a lot less. The bottem line is don’t believe everything Russian media is writing.

  • Anonymous

    “Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Saturday said that on its request France has seized property belonging to London-based tycoon Boris Berezovsky worth 13 billion euros.”

    This should be *million* instead of *billion*. The article you are citing here from RIAN agency has a translation typo. Original in Russian speaks of *millions*, of course.. (original, in russian) (translation in english, with a typo)

  • Anonymous

    There is another sequel to this story.. (text) (video)

    It is equaly interesting as the previous few. Andrey Lugovoy has taken a lie detector test about death of Litvinenko. British experts carried it out. He passed. British media keeps silent about it in apparently *orchestrated* manner, as in previous cases. This time, story touches on that subject too, explaining shortly how the media control is imposed in what its citizens consider to be *free and democratic society*. Rich yes, free not.