Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy

Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy

BEFORE his death, former spy Alexander Litvinenko was unbowed in criticising alleged abuses by his homeland’s government and relentlessly pursued information about the death of an investigative journalist who also had challenged President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Litvinenko, who lived in London with his wife, Maria, and 10-year-old son, Anatoli, had publicly accused Putin of being behind the slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down outside a Moscow apartment building October 7. In an interview conducted hours before he lost consciousness last Tuesday – two days before his death from radiation poisoning – Litvinenko acknowledged fearing he would die, and claimed the Kremlin was directly involved in his illness.”This is what it takes to prove one has been telling the truth,” Litvinenko was quoted telling The Times of London.Just weeks before, on October 19, Litvinenko was in the audience during a media discussion at the Frontline Club for journalists.When the time came for the panel – including Akhmed Zakayev, a representative of late Chechen rebel chief Aslan Maskhadov – to discuss the murder of Politkovskaya, Litvinenko signalled for the microphone and got to his feet.”My name is Alexander Litvinenko, and I am a former KGB and FSB agent,” he said, referring to the Russian initials of the former Soviet secret service and its successor, Russia’s Federal Security Service.The audience murmured and twisted in their chairs to watch the sandy-haired, stylish man.Saying his English was not strong, Litvinenko asked for the Russian translator’s help, and then levelled a series of accusations.”Somebody has asked me directly who is guilty of Anna’s death? And I can directly answer you: It is Mr Putin, President of the Russian Federation,” Litvinenko said.Such allegations and other criticisms did not endear him to the Russian establishment, whose leaders denied on Friday having any role in his death.Litvinenko joined the Russian counterintelligence forces in 1988 and rose to the rank of colonel in the Federal Security Service.He began specialising in terrorism and organised crime in 1991, then was transferred to the agency’s most secretive department on criminal organisations in 1997.In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering him to kill Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who built a huge fortune in questioned privatisation deals after the 1991 Soviet collapse.Living in Britain, Berezovsky also has been a strong critic of Putin and was often described as an associate of Litvinenko.Following his public claim, Litvinenko spend nine months in jail the following year on charges of abuse of office.He was later acquitted, and moved to in 2000 to London, where he received asylum and later became a British citizen.His 2003 book, ‘The FSB Blows Up Russia’, accused the security agency of staging bombings at Russian apartment buildings in 1999 that killed more than 300 people and were blamed by the Kremlin on Chechen separatists.The bombings were followed by the second war in a decade in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia.Litvinenko also is survived by two other children who live outside Britain, according to friends.Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.Nampa-APIn an interview conducted hours before he lost consciousness last Tuesday – two days before his death from radiation poisoning – Litvinenko acknowledged fearing he would die, and claimed the Kremlin was directly involved in his illness.”This is what it takes to prove one has been telling the truth,” Litvinenko was quoted telling The Times of London.Just weeks before, on October 19, Litvinenko was in the audience during a media discussion at the Frontline Club for journalists.When the time came for the panel – including Akhmed Zakayev, a representative of late Chechen rebel chief Aslan Maskhadov – to discuss the murder of Politkovskaya, Litvinenko signalled for the microphone and got to his feet.”My name is Alexander Litvinenko, and I am a former KGB and FSB agent,” he said, referring to the Russian initials of the former Soviet secret service and its successor, Russia’s Federal Security Service.The audience murmured and twisted in their chairs to watch the sandy-haired, stylish man.Saying his English was not strong, Litvinenko asked for the Russian translator’s help, and then levelled a series of accusations.”Somebody has asked me directly who is guilty of Anna’s death? And I can directly answer you: It is Mr Putin, President of the Russian Federation,” Litvinenko said.Such allegations and other criticisms did not endear him to the Russian establishment, whose leaders denied on Friday having any role in his death.Litvinenko joined the Russian counterintelligence forces in 1988 and rose to the rank of colonel in the Federal Security Service.He began specialising in terrorism and organised crime in 1991, then was transferred to the agency’s most secretive department on criminal organisations in 1997.In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering him to kill Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who built a huge fortune in questioned privatisation deals after the 1991 Soviet collapse.Living in Britain, Berezovsky also has been a strong critic of Putin and was often described as an associate of Litvinenko.Following his public claim, Litvinenko spend nine months in jail the following year on charges of abuse of office.He was later acquitted, and moved to in 2000 to London, where he received asylum and later became a British citizen.His 2003 book, ‘The FSB Blows Up Russia’, accused the security agency of staging bombings at Russian apartment buildings in 1999 that killed more than 300 people and were blamed by the Kremlin on Chechen separatists.The bombings were followed by the second war in a decade in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia.Litvinenko also is survived by two other children who live outside Britain, according to friends.Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.Nampa-AP

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