Archive for the ‘Litvinenko’ Category

SpyBlog hits the nail on the head: isn’t it time for the government to disclose the actual numbers on how much po-210 (and anything else) was floating around Alexander Litvinenko’s carcass? Scaramella walked from UCH two days ago, just after having told his boss’s pet paper back in Italy he was dying of radiation sickness. Now, Kotvin vanishes into a sealed hospital ward just as the Yard pitch up in Moscow. It’s possible he’s really ill, of course. It’s very strange that – seeing as he was exposed, presumably, at the same time as Litvinenko – he should suddenly fall ill now.

After all, the biological half-life is 50 days. So, assuming his argument is that he got a smaller dose, he’s hardly likely to keel over now. And – seeing as he flew to London to see Litvinenko on a plane that somehow got contaminated, saw him, returned on another plane that is hot, and seems to have left traces in all kinds of places – there are some questions he needs to answer. It’s certainly convenient that he’s in an isolation ward, no?

Only the data will clear up even a little of the fog of bullshit floating around the case.



So the BBC was blegging last night for information on Transaero’s B737 EI-DDK, an aircraft involved in the Litvinenko case which is reportedly all hot with po-210. You just knew this blog would end up being involved, didn’t you?

Transaero is a fairly respectable outfit, set up as a competitor to Aeroflot in 1991 and mostly operating Boeing types from Moscow-Domededovo. EI-DDK is a 737-4S3, serial number 24165, which has been knocking around unremarkably since 1989. Transaero bought it off Boeing’s resale division in 2003.

It was in Heathrow on the 28th-29th of October, having come from Moscow, which is presumably why it fell under suspicion – reportedly, Lugovoi, Kotvin and Co. travelled aboard it on their way to meet Litvinenko. Arriving on the 28th; leaving on the 29th. The last photo I can find of it puts it in Tegel Airport, Berlin on the 2nd of December.

It’s been a weird political week, no? There was “Loyalist” (scarequotes included because my definition of loyalty doesn’t include shooting fellow citizens, constables & c) nutbag Michael Stone’s public freakout-cum-terrorist attack on Stormont. I haven’t laughed as much in years – seriously, ten years ago this would have meant blood in the streets, all 39 Brigade leave cancelled, Belfast burning. These days he gets pistolwhipped with his own gun by a woman who isn’t even officially a security guard and publicly ridiculed. It’s progress of a sort. Slugger was of course all over the story, and has the details on his motive: apparently he wanted to be put in a cell for his own safety. It’s also progress that you can barge into Stormont with a gun to get yourself arrested, rather than simply shot.

I rather liked the commenter who suggested that the whole thing was an exercise in performance art by the amateur painter Stone, designed to mock the NI politicians’ desperate efforts to get the world’s attention.

Much more depressing is the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The Viking catherd has details on polonium-210 and comments that it was “a curiously elegant and vicious assassination method”. Indeed. The horror of it should be argument enough against the notion that he administered the poison to himself to discredit Vladimir Putin. Suicide-bombers, after all, go out in an instant, and self-immolation (Buddhist/Prague style) is both easier to arrange and more publicly theatrical. And where would he have laid hands on enough of the stuff? Any theory of his assassination must first climb the mount improbable of his killer having access to something found only in quantity in a nuclear reactor or linear accelerator, and in a form pure enough to be handled safely and innocuous enough to be administered easily.

Steinn points out that, at least within the US, small quantities of it are on open sale, but the amount required to kill would have cost $500,000, not to mention being a very noticeable sale. George “Dick Destiny” Smith points out that half a gram in a capsule would reach 500 degrees Celsius – “Litvinenko was cooked from the inside”.

There is something about this story, though, that almost makes the suicide theory plausible – the rainswept November streetscapes of London and the doomed radioactive exile wandering towards death through the flickering mobs of Christmas shoppers. There have always been exiles and foreign secret policemen conspiring in obscure corners of the city, and Litvinenko’s death is almost uncannily fitted to the genius loci. I am reminded of “The Professor”, the prototype suicide bomber and proto-fascist in Conrad’s Secret Agent, who carries an explosive charge triggered by a pneumatic bulb in the sleeve of his jacket, ready to blow himself up if arrested. In conversation with a comrade, he lets slip that the fuse is not instant – twenty seconds must elasp before the explosion, to the comrade’s utter horror and astonishment.

But a suicide-weapon that means not seconds, but weeks of irreversible radiation sickness, is innately improbable. The Government, of course, is desperately hoping against hope that it was anyone, anyone but Gazprom the Russians.