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Something Fishy

by | 21st, November 2006

Alexander Litvinenko’s red herring…

THAT’S not Richard Hammond pictured lying in a hospital bed on the Mirror’s cover page.

The man looking deathly pale, “with dark, sunken eyes, yellowing skin and a bald head” and not looking at all well is Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko is achieving no little fame as the only Russian émigré in London who isn’t an oligarch and doesn’t live in Mayfair.

He is also the 41-year-old former lieutenant-colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service, formerly better known as the KGB. It is claimed that Litvinenko has been poisoned by President Putin’s KGB.

The Mail says Litvinenko faces a bone marrow transplant. We read that his body is producing so few of the white blood cells that maintain the immune system that any infection could kill him.

What dastardly force could have done such a thing? The Sun looks into the matter and says Litvinenko fell ill after eating sushi in a London restaurant. Is Litvinenko the victim of a rogue prawn, a bad slice of tuna sashimi, a vengeful pork gyouza? Did he overindulge on raw fish? Or is the sushi a, er, red herring?

That would be bad enough. But then where would the story be? This can be no simple tale of food poisoning. British man eats bad food is no big story. (Litvinenko claimed political asylum in 2000 and was granted British citizenship last month.) This is the story of secret agents at work.

“From Russia with Lunch,” says the Sun’s front-page headline. “From Russia With Loathe”, trills the Mirror, both adaptations on James Bond’s From Russia With Love.

So did the KGB poison their man with thallium? Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s security committee tells the Sun: “I can’t exclude that possibility.”

He goes on: “That former KGB officer has been irritating the Russian authorities for a long time and possibly knew some state secrets. So when our special services got the chance to operate not only inside but outside the country, they decided to get rid of him.”

For their part, the Kremlin has called such talk “sheer nonsense”.

Is it? The Star looks back at other case of victims of “shadowy forces”.

Remember Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian dissident who was killed in 1978 with a poison-tipped umbrella on Waterloo Bridge in London.

There was the poisoned knitting needle shoved into Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s leg; the poisoned letter sent to Chechen warlord Khattab; the thallium-laced burger that did for East German Wolfgang Welsch; and the poison that affected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko, who looked as orange as his revolution.

Whatever the cause, looking at Litvinenko, the effect is hard to miss, not least of all for other Russian defectors who have fallen foul of Moscow…



Posted: 21st, November 2006 | In: Tabloids Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink