The Guardian writes today that one of the men who met with former KGB spy, Alexander Litvinenko, on the day he was poisoned was himself fatally poisoned as well. The shady Italian security consultant, Mario Scaramella, ostensibly met with Litvinenko to warn him of a KGB/FSB plot to assassinate five Russian dissident figures, two of which were Litvinenko and Scaramella. After receiving a clean bill of health from medical authorities as recently as yesterday, Scaramella heard today that he too had somehow ingested a fatal dose of radiation:
The unknown assassin who killed Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy, appeared last night to have claimed a second victim after tests revealed that one of the dead man’s associates had been poisoned with the same radioactive isotope, polonium-210.
Mario Scaramella was found to have ingested a potentially fatal dose of the substance and was being treated at a London hospital last night.
The Guardian also adds these interesting background details regarding Litvinenko’s murder:
The Guardian has been told that the amount of polonium-210 found in the Russian’s body could have killed him 100 times over, and would have cost as much as £20m to acquire.
If the killers had to pay for this stuff they are very well-heeled indeed. So either the killers have very deep pockets (or access to them) or else they are directly affiliated with a government source who could provide them the radioactive material gratis.
Another Guardian story paints a picture of a Russian group of ex-security agents willing to terminate alleged enemies of the state with extreme prejudice. The organization seems to come directly from central casting for a Tom Clancy spy thriller. According to Scaramella’s theory, this group was targeting the five individuals mentioned earlier:
Valentin Velichko, ex-KGB general and head of a security service veterans’ group, Dignity and Honour, is also named in the documents as involved in the “planning of actions” against…Mr Scaramella….
Mr Velichko…in an interview with the Guardian shortly before Mr Litvinenko’s death he rubbished the idea of security service involvement with the alleged poisoning, saying the former FSB officer “probably ate some bad sushi”.
Dignity and Honour, which has up to 3,000 members, is based in an apartment block on the outskirts of Moscow. It owns more than two dozen companies that provide everything from bodyguards to banking services. It is known to have strong links with the Kremlin.
While we can’t discount this theory until we hear more information, I wonder whether it might be possible that Scaramella himself might have poisoned Litvinenko and somehow in doing so accidentally poisoned himself. If he did so, it should be easy enough to trace this by following Scaramella’s movements to determine if radioactive traces accompanied his locations and movements.
Scaramella is something of a cipher. He was a consultant to an Italian legislative commission established by Italy’s former right wing government to explore KGB links to opposition Italian political figures. But Scaramella also appears to have maintained ties with the FSB itself as well:
Italian reports have also said that he had made regular visits to the FSB in Moscow and was a close associate of Viktor Kolmogorov, deputy head of the FSB. Mr Scaramella claims that his Moscow visits were connected to his work for the Mitrokhin commission, and that far from working for the FSB he believed he was as a target.
All I can say is it gets “curiouser and curiouser.”
And returning to the Litvinenko death and a possible explanation for it, a Guardian correspondent recounts a talk the ex-spy gave at a London press club which focussed on the death of muckraking Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya:
…Most recently at the Frontline Club in Paddington, London, he [Litvinenko] condemned Putin for the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. He stood in the club’s upstairs room making his points without emotion, waiting patiently for his translator to finish.
Because he may, in part, have died for these words, it is worth repeating them. ‘Anna Politkovskaya came to me and she asked me about the FSB. After her book – Putin’s Russia – was published, she received a number of threats, directly from the Kremlin. She asked me, “Can they kill me?” And I said quite frankly, “Yes, they can” and suggested she leave the country, at least for the moment. Putin passed the threat through one of her friends. She was told the threat was directly from Putin … I’m totally confident that there is only one person in Russia who could kill Anna Politkovskaya with her standing, with her fame. That is Putin.’
After reading the NY Times’ coverage of this story for several days and now tonight coming across the Guardian’s, the latter simply blows the former out of the water. That may be understandable considering the Guardian is covering a story on its own turf. But I think the Times is not grasping the enormity and profound moral alarm of these crimes while the Guardian is. Its writing is strong, full of eloquence, and cognizant of the potential international ramifications stemming from them. The Times seems to be covering the story as a curiosity and without much conviction.