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Posted by on Dec 2, 2006 in At TMV | 9 comments

Another Possible Kremlin Critic Poisoned?

Being critical of Russian President Vladmir Putin can literally be dangerous to your health:

Police fear that the murder of a former Kremlin spy may have been part of a double killing plot after a second man was taken to hospital last night with radiation poisoning.

The Anti-Terror Group is examining whether the killers of Alexander Litvinenko also tried to poison Mario Scaramella, an Italian security expert who met the Russian exile on the day that he fell ill.

Toxicologists confirmed yesterday that Mr Scaramella had also been contaminated by a “significant� amount of deadly polonium-210. The level leads them to suspect that it was more than he could have ingested from simple physical contact with Litvinenko.

Times are a-changing. Just a few years ago Russia was synonymous with the flowering of democracy and the end of the Cold War. Now the words “Russia” and “Kremlin” are linked in the headlines with the word “poison.”

Radiological experts also say that the amount is more than he could have inhaled from being close to Litvinenko had he coughed or sneezed. Cobra, the Government’s emergency planning committee, met after learning of Mr Scaramella’s contamination.

Doctors say it may be several weeks before the Italian academic knows the long-term effects of the contamination and whether he is likely to develop cancer. Mr Scaramella has ingested nothing like the amount that Litvinenko did, which explains why he has not shown the same acute symptoms, but doctors say that there is a longer-term risk of him developing cancer.

One health expert told The Times last night: “There is no known way of getting rid of polonium-210 from the body, so it does cause long-term damage.� Mr Scaramella met the former KGB colonel on November 1 at the Itsu sushi bar in London that the men used as a rendezvous.

The two were critics of the Kremlin and both appeared on a death list drawn up by a group of former KGB agents reportedly behind a number of murders abroad of enemies of President Putin.

And officials don’t believe these were spur-of-the-moment poisonings:

Detectives believe that a sizeable team travelled from Russia to smuggle the polonium-210 into Britain and shadow Litvinenko. There is a suspicion that Litvinenko’s mobile telephone was bugged and the surveillance team knew of his meeting with the Italian security expert, who had taken part in a parliamentary investigation in Rome into KGB dirty tricks.

The worst part: the light is shining on the people behind the poisonings but there are few signs of (a) consequences and (b) that the crackdown on Kremlin foes will stop.

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Copyright 2006 The Moderate Voice
  • Lynx

    I’m going to allow myself a childish moment and mention that it seems rather James Bond for an emergency planning commitee to call itself “Cobra”.

    On to the actual news, I had a thought. If this man was poisoned from his food, then it’s reasonable to assume that they put it in his sushi (being a sushi bar). It’s not at all uncommon in a sushi bar for a companion to take one piece to taste. Scaramella could have just taken one piece out of a poisoned board of sushi and therefore been partially poisoned.

  • Russia never was a Democracy.

    And it won’t be for quite some time, if ever.

    I’ve always thought Post-Soviet Russia could not be trusted.
    It’s another Rogue State just like North Korea…. although Russia parades as a Democracy. It is basically run by a gang of KGB thugs and hardline military folks.

    Any European country that continues to allow Russian foreign service (Embassy) staff on its soil and also don’t consider a travel ban on most Russian nationals….is just asking for trouble.

    Russia appears to be a country out of control.

    The only way to correct this kind of recklessness is to use some levers…. such as travel limits, diplomatic/embassy limitations, and if necessary… consider Trade restrictions.

    The problem with Trade restrictions is…. several European countries have made themselves slaves to Russia…because of the oil and gas that Russia supplies. Russia’s cutting off of gas supplies about a year ago apparently was not enough to scare the heck out of Europe…. Maybe this will finally wake them up and make them seek energy independence.

  • Damn Putin is Gangsta w/ his…yikes! Yeah my fellow Ruskies don’t play around. Also, anyone who thought The Bear was a Democracy doesn’t know the past 1000+ years of Russian history.

  • Pyst

    Is anyone else skeptical about the KGB knocking off someone so sloppily? Honestly, the KGB wouldn’t kill someone like this where it takes over a week for them to die in such an obvious manner.

  • grognard

    Angry, yes the European need for energy gives Russia the winning hand in this game. Technologies to reduce fossil fuel dependence take time to implement, and Europe already has very high taxes to reduce demands on some fossil fuels, so I don’t know how much farther they can go in the short term. The key to this problem will be the former Warsaw pact countries who view the rise of Russia with alarm. They know what Putin is all about and will be open to take the steps to impair Russian intelligence operations. Another key is the state of the Russian military and government, the top of the bureaucracy lives well but the rest is near poverty. That is an opening to infiltration and espionage. My feeling that this will become a behind the scenes game, both sides putting on a friendly public face but slugging it out in secret. I do hope that this incident will get Bush to have a more realistic of his friend, but considering past performance I don’t hold out much hope.

  • Laura

    The return of the evil empire. What else should we expect from the country that’s providing Iran with the means to make nuclear weapons?

  • TinMan6

    Is anyone else skeptical about the KGB knocking off someone so sloppily? Honestly, the KGB wouldn’t kill someone like this where it takes over a week for them to die in such an obvious manner.

    They have no problem eliminating someone in a slow manner. The odd part is the poor tradecraft. The Spy Who Billed me has been blogging about this. Intelligence insiders suggest it’s a sign of the FSB (former KGB) suffering from the loss of quality personnel, much like the CIA has recently due to outsourcing.

    Check out:

    Oh the Good ol Days of Killer Umbrellas and Ricin Microcapsules!

    and

    Why You Should Never Use Your Shoe-Phone After Stepping In Polonium-210

  • I once read in a book that many Russians believe that the only effective political system for the country is that with a strong leader and a strong central government.

    Also consider this: the heroes of the US were strong presidents / idealists: JFK, Lincoln, MLK and so on. the heroes of Russia? Dictators and ruthless men (and women).

  • Pyst

    Not so sure about that TinMan, it feels more like someone trying to cause problems for Putin than Putin taking care of “problems”.

    Ricin would be easy to procure, thats why plutonium 210 as rare as it is makes this look very suspicious.

    Even British intel thinks something about this doesn’t pass the KGB smell test.

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