Aleksandr Litvinenko, a 43-year-old ex-KGB/FSB lieutenant-colonel and a harsh opponent of the Kremlin, died Thursday night of radiation poisoning in London, where he lived under asylum since 2000. In his deathbed statement read out by his friends, Litvinenko was addressing (and implicating) Vladimir Putin:
[…] You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.
You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.
You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.
You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.
May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.
LJ user dolboeb (Anton Nossik, whose entry on journalist Anna Politkovskaya's assassination was translated here a month and a half ago) posts a reaction (RUS) that's nowhere near as straightforward as Litvinenko's last statement – but as telling:
A Conspiracy: Theory and Practice
Sasha Litvinenko died last night at a London hospital. While he was alive, all he was interested in talking about were special services’ conspiracies, murder attempts, secret plots. It sounded like pure paranoia, acquired as a result of too many years of work in the organs. But he ended up being right. A pity.
I've slowly gotten used to pessimists winning all the bets. This time it's a paranoiac who has won the main bet of his life (and death). I feel like saying this again: “But no, Sasha, you are wrong, it can't be so.” But there's no one to say it to.
Here're some of the comments to dolboeb‘s post:
otry: It all resembles the [Soviet times]. Russians, aren't you scared to live??
andronic: A deserter died, a subject of Her Majesty. Why should Russian citizens be scared?
otry: Think of the USSR and the dissidents. It's much easier to live when [the Communist Party] is leading and directing you. […]
baijarak: What does it have to do with Litvinenko's death? Or do you have evidence proving he was killed by the [secret service]?
otry: What I said isn't just about Litvinenko. Turn and look around.
baijarak: Well, everything's not too bad around me. At least, it's not as you are describing it. The regime makes many [mistakes], there's [plenty of] crap in society – as in the majority of countries, by the way. But I wouldn't say that special services aren't letting anyone live and are doing away with all people who have their own position. [I wouldn't say] there “no oxygen.” It's all quite normal.
varera: [What secret services?] He poisoned himself on purpose, to [spite] Russia.
almish: I thought about it, too, by the way. […]
varera: What's to be done for people to see the irony? What smiley to insert?
jerom: Oh, but there are many countries that aren't shy about eliminating criminals in foreign countries (Israel, USA). Litvinenko is a KGB officer, with access to secrets, a traitor. Maybe [he deserved it]? Let's watch [Oleg Kalugin]'s health, and that of [Victor Rezun-Suvorov], let's wait and see…
___mic___: He got what he wanted.
vasya22: When one works in the organs for too long, one acquires realism, not paranoia…
object: Those who support the arguments “No one cared about him” and “Why harm your own prestige?” should first tackle the questions of whose prestige was benefiting from [Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn]'s deportation or [Andrei Sakharov]'s exile in Gorky. I remember how a teacher of history of the CPSU at the institute was saying that Sakharov was a worm that no normal people would pay attention to. This was his argument in favor of the exile.
In any case, [FSB director Nikolay Patrushev] said honestly: “We didn't reject our past, we've said it honestly: [Lubyanka]'s history of the past century is our history…”
smolenski: […] Is it bad – to remember your country's history?
object: We are talking of different things.
kondratiy: It looks like [Mr. Yelenin] has begun to get rid of those extra mouthes to feed.
It seems from what’s been investigated that Litvinenko was assasinated. The radioactive substance which killed him is only present in trace amounts in everyday urban surroundings but found in a high concentration in his body. So there is no other way for it to have got there unless someone put it there.
Would it be fair to say that most Russians consider him a traitor and that he deserved a traitor’s death?
Litvinenko was definitely assassinated. Fingers have been pointed at the Russian mafia, the FSB, and Putin himself. Also, some conspiracy theorists are saying other defectors might have done it to make the Russian authorities look bad – and therefore, prevent their own extradition back to Russia. Hardly likely, but I suppose it’s possible.
For a concise explanation of the Russian spy incident, see: