Killing and poisoning of regime enemies in the east

The Russian regime and its client states have ways of dealing with nuisances – poison or shoot them. Here are a few recent examples. There are many more.

Murder of Moscow journalist “a shocking outrage”

13 October 2006

The International Federation of Journalists has described the murder in Moscow of Anna Politkovskaya as a “shocking outrage that will stun journalists across the world.”

The IFJ says the killing reflects a state of lawlessness that is threatening to overwhelm Russian journalism. It has called on the government of President Vladimir Putin to act immediately to bring the killers to justice.

Politkovskaya was shot dead on Saturday. According to news reports, her body was found in the lift in the building where she lived.

“The Russian authorities must carry out an urgent and intensive investigation. We need to know who killed our colleague and who ordered the attack in the first place,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary.

Politkovskaya, who worked for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, established her reputation on the back of controversial reports about human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya.

Her reputation and trenchant reporting made here a thorn in the side of the Russian government and when she fell seriously ill with food poisoning in 2004 while on her way to report on the Beslan school siege, many observers believed it was an attempt on her life.

“She was the bravest of the new breed of brave reporters who emerged in the dying days of the Soviet Union,” said White. “She faced down threats from all sides and was an inspiration to journalists both at home and abroad. Her death is a shocking outrage that will stun the world of journalism.”

Ukraine candidate ‘was poisoned’

Mr Yushchenko’s appearance changed almost overnight
Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko’s mystery illness was caused by poisoning, his Vienna doctors say.
The doctors said extensive tests showed a form of dioxin had been used, leaving Mr Yushchenko’s face disfigured.

They described the poisoning as serious and said that if left untreated it could have killed him.

Mr Yushchenko, 50, was taken ill in September as he campaigned for disputed elections that have now been declared invalid because of irregularities.

His supporters staged mass demonstrations against election fraud after his opponent Viktor Yanukovych was initially declared the winner.

The second round is now being re-run on 26 December.

Analysts say he would have to dispel any doubts about his health before becoming president.

In Washington, a state department spokeswoman said the United States was “deeply concerned about these findings” and urged Ukrainian authorities to investigate.

‘No doubt’

The opposition leader has accused the Ukrainian authorities of trying to poison him – a charge they reject.

Doctors were at first unable to confirm the poisoning theory but have now carried out further tests.

There were high concentrations of dioxin, most likely orally administered
Michael Zimpfer
Rudolfinerhaus clinic head doctor

The poisoning theory
What is dioxin?
“There is no doubt about the fact that the disease has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin,” Michael Zimpfer, the head doctor of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic where Mr Yushchenko is undergoing treatment, said.

“There were high concentrations of dioxin, most likely orally administered.”

It is still not clear whether the poisoning was deliberate, though Dr Zimpfer said it was likely to have been caused by “a third party”.

The question of who was responsible was a matter for the judicial authorities, he said.

Dr Zimpfer said the substance was soluble and could have been administered in something like soup.

The doctors said their findings were backed by clinical observations and the study of blood and tissue samples.

This was the first time since the event that they had conducted biopsies, they said.

Large dose

Mr Yushchenko’s blood and tissue registered concentrations of dioxin 1,000 times above normal levels.

There appeared to be little lasting damage to Mr Yushchenko’s internal organs, though experts say it could take more than two years for his skin to return to normal.

Mr Yushchenko said on arrival at the clinic on Friday that his health was getting “better every day”.

Dioxins are common pollutants – produced as the result of many industrial processes.

But toxicologists say little is known about the effect of such a large single dose.

“It’s usually low-level, long-term poisoning,” Professor John Henry of London’s St Mary’s hospital told the BBC.

“A very large dose, nobody has any real idea of what it would cause. Now we do know.”

From New York Times

Alexander V. Litvinenko

Alistair Fuller/Associated Press
The murder of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent and foe of the Kremlin, has created one of the most stirring dramas of espionage since the cold war and has underscored the deepening suspicions between Russia and the West. Mr. Litvinenko died on Nov. 23 after having been poisoned in London three weeks earlier with a radioactive isotope, polonium 210.

The British authorities have accused Andrei K. Lugovoi of murder and have requested his extradition from Russia. But Russian authorities have ruled out extraditing Mr. Lugovoi, a former K.G.B. bodyguard who now owns security and other businesses.

Mr. Lugovoi, in turn, has accused a British intelligence agency, MI6, and a self-exiled Russian tycoon, Boris A. Berezovsky, of organizing the killing and blaming him to create a political scandal. They have denied the allegation.

The precise nature of the evidence against Mr. Lugovoi has not been outlined, though investigators have linked him and an associate, Dmitri V. Kovtun, to nuclear traces stretching from luxury hotels and offices in London to Hamburg, Germany, and to British Airways planes that had flown to Moscow.

Mr. Litvinenko, 43, died after weeks of debilitating illness. He became ill the day he met Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel, across from the American Embassy, in Grosvenor Square. At the meeting, Mr. Litvinenko drank tea, which his associates have since asserted was laced with polonium.

On his deathbed, Mr. Litvinenko accused Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, of ordering his murder. (Jon Elsen, May 31, 2007)

From Belfast Telegraph

Germany launches probe into ex-KGB agent’s poison claim

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

German state prosecutors yesterday said they had opened an investigation to establish whether a dissident former Russian KGB colonel and his wife who emigrated to Berlin three months ago had been poisoned.

The inquiry followed reports in the German weekly magazine ‘Focus’, which said that doctors had discovered dangerously high levels of mercury in the blood of the couple after they arrived in Germany from Russia.

“An investigation has been opened. It is being carried out by a department dealing with politically motivated crimes,” a spokesman for the public prosecutors’ office in the German capital said.

Focus reported earlier this month that doctors had detected abnormally high mercury levels in the blood of Viktor Kalashnikov, a former colonel in the Soviet KGB, and in his historian wife, Marina Kalashnikov.

Both were said to have suffered serious health problems, with Marina losing half of her hair and Viktor suffering weight loss.

Medical experts have recommended that the couple undergo further tests and that their health should be monitored closely, the magazine said.

Mr Kalashnikov is convinced that the Kremlin is responsible for the couple’s health problems.

In an interview with ‘Focus’, he told the magazine: “Moscow poisoned us.”

The couple have worked as freelance journalists since the 1990s, publishing articles that have angered the Kremlin. They arrived in Berlin in September.

The Kalashnikovs’ fate has been compared to that of the dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by radioactive poisoning in London in 2006.