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 â€œsignificantâ€? 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 Governmentâ€™s emergency planning committee, met after learning of Mr Scaramellaâ€™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: â€œThere is no known way of getting rid of polonium-210 from the body, so it does cause long-term damage.â€? 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 Litvinenkoâ€™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.