The Death Of Alexander Litvinenko, Continued - Weirder And Weirder
Radiation has now been found at 12 different London locations, and two British Airways planes have been grounded at Heathrow Airport after traces of radiation were detected.
As Tim Worstall put it, 'Unless someone started stuffing the polonium 210 into your tea, you'd have got more radiation from simply being on a plane at 30,000 feet than anything else.'
But what we do have now is a health scare; confusion; possibly alarm.
Possibly someone trying to panic the public.
Meanwhile, Yegor Gaidar has been taken ill in Dublin, and David Frum has already started with the insinuations and conspiracy theories.
Except in Gaidar's case, they don't seem to wash...
The bilocative Super Mario Scaramella is pleased not to be suffering from Polonium-210 poisoning, while David Clark warns that '(we) cannot let Russia use its domination of energy supplies to bully its neighbours across Europe'.
Call me an appeaser if you like, but I don't feel bullied by Russia- I just want the heating to come on.
It's a rare issue indeed that brings Eric Margolis (who fails to mention the unverified allegation that Berezovsky paid Litvinenko $1.5m to hold the press conference at which he claimed he had been ordered to murder him) and Victor Davis Hanson together, but the ability to proclaim Putin's guilt seems to be one of them - while Andrew Sullivan has taken a break from discussing the intracies of Mormon underwear to warn of 'The Russian Danger', provide a 'useful, if scary primer' on Polonium-210, and asks,
"Now former Russian PM Gaidar, another Putin foe, is sick - possibly from some kind of poison. Polonium again? Has Putin launched a micro-nuclear war against his opposition?"
No, dude. Firstly, according to xymphora Gaidar could hardly be described as a Putin foe, and secondly he might have been handling one of the $71 GE Osmonic Labstores static eliminators which contain Polonium-210 and whose existence has been known about since Sunday.
Actually, we now have an advance on $71.00 - according to Life Style Extra, there's a lab that will do you Polonium-210 for 69 bucks plus shipping and handling.
Oddly, its website seems to be down...
Here's another reason why the Russian state probably had nothing to do with Gaidar's illness.
After he got sick at his speaking engagement at Maynooth College, he went to the Russian Embassy in Dublin- and made it out alive.
Here's another reason - he seems to be recovering; a luxury not afforded poor old Alexander Litvinenko.
Here's another reason - according to the Radio Free Europe report linked to directly above,
"Gaidar's daughter Maria told RFE/RL's Russian Service on November 29 that her father did not describe the illness to her as the result of a poisoning. She said that "such conclusions [that he was poisoned] can be drawn from conversation with witnesses, with people who saw him in Dublin [where he suddenly became ill], so such allegations are indeed being made. But I did not hear him make any such allegations." She added that "I am worried and concerned and would not rush to conclusions on this matter. I'm waiting for the medical report and then will be prepared to think about this subject."
So it isn't even clear whether he has been poisoned at all.
Never mind, Sully - if what's left of his hair starts falling out within 2-4 weeks of him getting sick, it's thallium poisoning.
But prominent journalists making assumptions has been the order of the day in this story since it broke.
Here's a poser...
According to MosNews,
"Anatoly Chubais, head of Russian power monopoly Unified Energy Systems of Russia doubts that the ailment affecting Russian economist and politician Yegor Gaidar was caused by natural factors...
Chubais said it couldn`t have been a natural disease. He also refuted the version that said Russian special services could be involved in Gaidar’s poisoning. “It is unquestionable for me that a mortal construction of Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Gaidar, which did not come into being by miracle, would have been exceedingly attractive for supporters of unconstitutional scenarios envisioning a change of power in Russia by force,” Chubais noticed."
According to 'Oligarch' he's, well, an oligarch.
According to Wikipedia - well,
"Anatoly Borisovich Chubais... is a Russian politician best known for his role in Russian privatization and the creation of Russian oligarchs. Although the exact amount of his personal wealth (estimated according to rumors at one billion dollars) is not known, he is often considered to be an oligarch himself. The 2004 survey by Price-WaterhouseCoopers and Financial Times named him the world's 54th most respected business leader...
Chubais allegedly gained his personal mostly from non-salary sources through his participation at key executive positions in Yeltsin's government during the time of anarchy that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Chubais is primarily known for his role under Yegor Gaidar as the vice-premier of the Russian Government. Gaidar and Chubais were the principal "young reformers" associated with shock therapy, privatization, and the rise of the Russian oligarchs. Both Gaidar and Chubais are former members of the communist party, and Gaidar was the editor of CPSU journal "Communist". In 1992 under the guidance of Chubais the State Property Committee designed a privatization program, according to which the state property was supposed to be fairly distributed between the citizens. In actuality, ordinary citizens gained pieces of paper ("vouchers") worth of one bottle of vodka, whereas the people at key position in governing structures, their relatives and business associates obtained enormous amounts of wealth."
So without Gaidar and Chubais there would have been no Berezovsky.
"From November 1994 through January 1996 he was First Vice-Premier — in charge of economy and finance — in the Government of Viktor Chernomyrdin. During this time, the creation of Russian oligarchs was finalized. Russian oligarchy was formed in late 1995 in the "loans-for-shares" program. In this scheme, a small group of individuals well-connected to government structures were handed valuable pieces of state property in return for cash "loans" (which in many cases were funded by the bank accounts of the state bank) that was cash which had previously gained been by the same people in the government-controlled privatization. One purpose of this operation was to help Boris Yeltsin's re-election...
Although there are rumors that Chubais benefited enormously from the loans-for-shares scheme, the exact amount of his profit is unknown. In 1997, when Chubais served as First Vice-Premier and Minister of Finance for the Russian Federation, it became known that businessman Alexander Smolensky gave Chubais an "interest-free loan" of $3 million around the time that Chubais arranged an auction for Russia's second largest banking network, AgroPromBank, which then went to Alexander Smolensky. Chubais was then implicated in the scandal for a fake book publishing advance from a company tied to Vladimir Potanin's Oneximbank — shortly before Oneximbank won the auction for Svyazinvest. Chubais was removed from the government after that scandal and named chairman of the board of UES, Russia's power generating monopoly. Best known quote from Chubais is "We swindled them" ("Мы их кинули"). Chubais said this when he explained how he managed to squeeze $40 billion in funds from the IMF and other international lending organizations, all of which ended up in the pockets of Yeltsin's circle...
Chubais is one of the most controversial figures in Russian politics as a result of his close involvement in the rigged Russian privatization during the 1990s. The general population tends to see him as a criminal who stole money using his government position, and he is widely hated. He has also been blamed by some for rising utility prices because of his position at UES. Chubais seems to have survived the 2005 Moscow blackout generally blamed on Mosenergo and UES. He also survived an attempt on his life that took place on his way to work in March 2005. Retired Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov was later jailed in connection with the attack, though he continually denied the charges. Despite the widespread allegations, Chubais has never been charged for bribery or corruption."
"Recently tabbed an "oligarch" by Yevgeny Kiselov after shoring up control of UES...After having been a great Kremlin intriguer, is now literally a major regional powerhouse, brokering control of regional industry through judicious turning on and off of energy subsidy faucet...If he ever runs for office, may use famous Calvin Trillin campaign slogan: "Never been indicted"...Snake-charmed entire Western press corps with brandishment of laptop computer...Speaks English; has been spotted in limo outside Night Flight...Destined to work as cafeteria manager in hell, where jello will be on the menu but never on the shelves."
All in all, Chubais sounds like quite an interesting fellow - however, the one comment that jumps right off the page concerning Gaidar's incapacity is,
"It is unquestionable for me that a mortal construction of Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Gaidar, which did not come into being by miracle, would have been exceedingly attractive for supporters of unconstitutional scenarios envisioning a change of power in Russia by force” .
For the avoidance of doubt, in January 2006 Boris Berezovsky was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying that,
"President Putin violates the constitution... and any violent action on the opposition's part is justified today...That includes taking power by force, which is exactly what I am working on".
On November 22 it became known that Lord Tim Bell, one of the United Kingdom's top public relations men, was working on Litvinenko's behalf free of charge - and was also an adviser of Berezovsky's.
On November 23, before Litvinenko died, it was being reported that the focus of the investigation was moving away from there having been any state involvement in his condition.
On November 24, the precise length and depth of Litvinenko's relationship with Berezovsky became apparent - and it was also at that point that the suspicion of cause of death switched from the previous 'certainty' of thallium poisoning to it being polonium-210; that the rather odd background of Mario Scaramella became apparent; and also the nature of links that Berezovsky had made with British political figures.
And on November 28 it was announced that Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian emigre dissident of no political value, had visited the offices of a global security company named Erinys International on the day he was poisoned, on what Erinys described as 'unrelated business'.
On November 21 I wrote,
"At the moment, all cards seem to be on the table. It might be the case that Litvinenko's past as an investigator caught up with him. It might be the case that the Russian state wants him dead.
But given the possible gravity of this situation's international implications, the idea that we are seeing the most dangerous case of wasting police time in English legal history being played out before our eyes cannot be discounted."
On November 22 I wrote,
"There is no reason why (Berezovsky's) claim to be planning the overthrow of a friendly foreign power's democratically elected government should not be taken seriously.
He might have much to gain by smearing Vladimir Putin for having ordered the attack on Alexander Litvinenko.
At the very least his asylum status should be reviewed.
And one must ask - given their closeness to Berezovsky, have Goldfarb, who appears to be an American citizen, Litvinenko, now a British citizen, and Zakayev, like Berezovsky a recipient of the United Kingdom's asylum, all been aware of and perhaps involved in his parapolitical plans?"
On November 28 I asked,
"Upon what 'unrelated matter' could Litvinenko, a relatively unimportant Russian dissident, British citizen and associate (and tenant) of a man who's made clear his desire to bring down a friendly foreign power's democratically elected government by force, have possibly been visiting the offices of the company that won a $100 million contract to guard Iraq's oilfields?And which hires Russians?
One is certain it couldn't be on account of anything which might contravene the strict code of ethics to which Erinys adheres."
Earlier today, Life Style Extra reported on the inquest opened into Litvinenko's death and immediately adjourned -
"Poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko probably died from a type of leukaemia caused by radioactive polonium, a coroner heard today (Thu).
It also emerged the family of the former KGB colonel have asked for their own pathologist to be present at the autopsy tomorrow, when the precise cause of death should become known.
The inquest into the death was formally opened this morning at St Pancras Coroner's Court, attended by the dissident's friend Alex Goldfarb and lawyers representing Mr Litvinenko's widow, Marina...
Coroner Dr Andrew Reid heard Mr Litvinenko, 43, of Muswell Hill, North London, whose occupation was given as 'journalist', died at University College Hospital on November 23.
Coroner's Officer Alan Pearce told the court how the hospital had first been in touch with him shortly before Mr Litvinenko died, saying he was suffering from either "anaplastic leukaemia or pancytic leukaemia".
Mr Pearce added: "Sadly he subsequently died later that day on November 23."
He continued: "The preliminary cause of death has been supplemented by further investigations. It now appears that Mr Litvinenko was exposed to a radioactive substance known as polonium 210."
This matter is still the subject of police investigation. The level of polonium at this stage appears to have come from a source other than a naturally occurring source and the police are investigating the further circumstances by which Mr Litvinenko was exposed to or was administered this substance, and by whom."
I have received an indication that, subject to these investigations, someone may be charged with a homicide in relation to this death.
"We are still waiting for further investigations, including an autopsy to determine the precise cause of death."
Dr Reid said: "On that basis I have instructed a Home Office pathologist to perform an autopsy on my behalf at the Royal London Hospital's forensic facility tomorrow morning (Fri)."On the basis that someone may be charged with a criminal offence in this matter, and in accordance with Home Office guidelines, it was agreed that an independent pathologist will be present and will provide an independent opinion, should anyone ever be charged."
One awaits the autopsy's outcome with interest.