Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Death of Alexander Litvinenko, Continued - Soldier Of Misfortune

“One thing’s that’s guaranteed is that tomorrow’s Sunday papers are going to be a blast” -

The blogger, yesterday.

Well, they certainly were – and then some.

Anybody wondering whether the late Alexander Litvinenko was an entirely sane and rational actor should click on this link, and then on the link entitled ‘Celebrating Citizenship'.

It will reveal a picture Litvinenko reported to have been taken on the day he became a British citizen less than two months ago – as ‘The Observer’ puts it,

“Alexander Litvinenko stands in front of the Union flag with a Scottish bonnet, Chechen swords and KGB gauntlets on the day he became British - just before he was poisoned”.

A casual observer of that picture might think Litvinenko a complete nutjob, a screaming headcase fit only for the happy suit in one of the National Health Services’ darker, quieter and more secure recesses.

However, look at the picture again.

It is a very martial pose – the pose of a soldier ready to go into battle.

And this might be entirely coincidental, but that isn’t just any type of Scottish bonnet he’s wearing.

It is a Glengarry – unless I’m greatly mistaken, of a type identical to that worn by the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (RIP); and decorated in what look very much like the Argylls’ colours.

It is a soldier’s bonnet.

Although posed, Litvinenko’s face is a study in purpose, the face of a man with a job to do; or that of a soldier with a mission to perform.

Again this might be completely coincidental, but Scotland and Russia share the same patron saint – St. Andrew.

Perhaps he might have been looking for a British symbol that might provide or possess even a tenuous connection to the motherland.

Although it’s gratifying to see a new citizen stand so proudly in front of the Union Flag, it’s hard to believe that his assimilation into British life was complete.

The KGB gauntlets are a strict No-No, for a start, and the Chechen swords – well, he was a near neighbour of Akhmad Zakayev...

In 2002, Litvinenko said of himself that,

Above all, I am a patriot. I believe Russia will rise again and that I will manage to return again to the motherland and Moscow."

Perhaps the manner in which he celebrated the grant of British citizenship indicated that he never really quite lost the Russian habit.

One would be very interested to get to the bottom of the confusion that seems to surround the precise nature of Litvinenko’s religious beliefs.

‘Zionist War’ is one of the more disgusting websites one has come across when writing about this case – bog standard anti-Semitic filth for the most part; but sometimes even the most disgusting websites carry interesting snippets.

On November 24, it reported that,

“Alexander Litvineko who was poisoned in London by the FSB, a Russian secret service, for criticising Putin and died from poisoning on Thursday night November 23 2006, converted to Islam some time ago, the Chechenpress news agency reported.

Before he died, Muslim rituals were performed at his deathbed. A mullah, invited from a London mosque, read the Sunnah Yasin”.


Echo Moskvy has also reported his conversion, and Justin Raimondo appears to have accepted it hook, line and sinker.

However, there are two slight problems with the report.

The first is that the report of his conversion originates from Chechenpress, whose billing as the ‘(news) agency of the rebel Chechen forces proclaiming themselves to be the representatives of the "Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.” – whose foreign minister is, ahem, one Akhmad Zakayev – means that to all intents and purposes it’s a rebel group’s propaganda arm; and to deploy a not inexact analogy, given the unequivocal nature of Litvinenko’s previous declaration of Russian patriotism it might seems about as credible as a report appearing in An Phoblacht that Ian Paisley is considering converting to Catholicism.

The second is that today’s Sunday Times’ reports that,

“Late last week a Home Office pathologist conducted a post-mortem examination on Litvinenko at the Royal London hospital. It is thought to have been carried out with full protective clothing to prevent further contamination.

The funeral arrangements are yet to be decided, but the traditional elements of Russian Orthodox ceremony have been ruled out. The Health Protection Agency will not allow mourners to pass the body of the former spy in an open casket.”

Tomorrow is apparently the day upon which the Russian authorities will be able to confirm whether Yegor Gaidar was poisoned.

On November 30, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported his daughter Maria as saying his illness was a consequence of ‘a political poisoning’, while the ‘Financial Times’ reported that his illness had been caused by indeterminate ‘un-natural products’.

RTE News has reported that no radiation has been found at any location in Ireland at which Gaidar had been present.

However the BBC report on the exclusion of radiation poisoning also quotes Maria Gaidar as believing that,

“…her father had been poisoned by people seeking to destabilise Russia.”

When pushed to define who she meant she said elements within the Russian security services and opponents of the government who are now living in exile abroad.”

Whilst one wishes Mr. Gaidar a speedy recovery, his daughter’s analysis of who might be responsible for his condition might be best described as vague; at worst yielding a list of suspects big enough to fill the Moscow phonebook.

It might be in bad taste to note that the bad batch of heroin currently on Dublin’s streets may have killed more people in the last week than the Russian or Soviet services seem to have killed overseas in the last 50 years.

Meanwhile, poor old Super Mario Scaramella’s going to be giving eight urine samples a day for the next decade…

One can’t help feeling a little sorry for Super Mario.

The Independent on Sunday reports that the University of Naples has never heard of him.

One of the few verifiable facts about Scaramella is that he was the director of the Environmental Crime Prevention Program; and given that the University of Naples’ web address is http://www.unina.it/, one can’t help but think it a little odd that the e-mail address which appears under ‘Contact E.C.P.P. Secretariat’ on the E.C.P.P.’s website is scaramel@unina.it.

One wonders if the University of Naples doth protest too much…

One also wonders whether his work with this agency might have led to him coming into contact with polonium-210 at some point other than his November 1 meeting with Alexander Litvinenko.

However, the IoS also reports other details on Scaramella today; some of which do not portray the bold bambino in the best of lights.

It reports that,

“Mr. Scaramella claims to be many things, including a professor at Naples University, an honorary magistrate, and consultant to something called the Environmental Crime Protection Programme (ECPP). But Naples University has not heard of him. The ECPP has no fixed office. The post as magistrate is non-paying. The only job he has had in recent years over which there is no doubt is with the Mitrokhin Commission.

Yet it is this job, which finished before Italy's general election in April, that has now landed him in hot water. On the orders of the public prosecutor of Naples, Mr Scaramella's phone was tapped; last week Italian papers published what were reported to be transcripts of conversations between him and the president of the Mitrokhin Commission, Senator Paolo Guzzanti, a member of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

The transcripts allegedly show the two men discussing how Mr Scaramella is to acquire strong enough evidence from Moscow to label Romano Prodi, then the leader of Italy's centre-left opposition, now Prime Minister, a tool of the Russians. Other members of the Prodi government were also said to have been targeted, including the head of the Green Party, Alfonso Scanio, who is now environment minister.

"We can't go so far as to say Prodi is a KGB agent," Mr Scaramella allegedly says at one point. "But we can say that the Russians consider Prodi a friend ..." Mr Guzzanti explodes. "Friend doesn't mean a f*cking thing!" he roars. "Are you taking me for a c*nt?"

Lawyers for Mr Scaramella and Mr Guzzanti have protested at the bugging, but have not questioned the authenticity of the transcripts. After they appeared, Mr Prodi announced that he would sue "all those who, by words and deeds, have wounded my dignity as a citizen and as a representative of institutions".

Doubts about Mr Scaramella's work for the Mitrokhin Commission are not new. In 2004, opposition members of the commission described his contributions as "barely credible and not at all helpful ... grotesque and mysterious ... " But yesterday Oleg Gordievsky, the most senior Russian agent ever to defect to Britain, said Mr Scaramella's main source for allegations against Mr Prodi was none other than Mr Litivinenko, who came to this country in 2000 and recently became a British citizen.

"I was with Litvinenko when we met members of the UK Independence Party, " Mr Gordievsky told the IoS yesterday. "He told them that a KGB general, Anatoly Trofimov, had said to him: 'Prodi is one of ours.' The UKIP members later repeated the allegation in the European Parliament, when Mr Prodi was head of the European Commission in Brussels."

The UKIP MEP who asked the question was, of course, Gerard Batten - and as I noted on November 24,

“…given Litvinenko’s closeness to (Boris) Berezovsky, the idea that he reported this conservation (with Trofimov) to Batten without Berezovsky’s knowledge stretches the bounds of credibility to breaking point”.
Unfortunately folks, I need to sign off; but tomorrow there shall be reported meetings with old friends and mysterious femme fatales…

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