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Sir Robert Michael Owen is assistant coroner responsible for the inquest of Alexander Litvinenko death and chaired the inquiry and his latest coronial title was “Her Majesty’s Assistant Coroner for Inner North London.” On January 21 Sir Owen’s report on more than 300 pages made the titles in the media with the conclusion that the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB operation to kill Alexander Litvinenko was “probably approved by Nikolai Patrushev and by President Vladimir Putin.” The report offers details not only of the last hours of Litvinenko life, but also detailed information from the hearings, collected documents, testimonies, news articles and other elements of Litvinenko death.
Who is Alexander Litvinenko?
Edwin Redwald Carter was the name of Alexander Litvinenko, who became a British citizen in October 2006 before his death on November 23, 2006. Litvinenko death was mysterious as it was his life, not only in former Soviet Union, but also in Russia, and after it in the United Kingdom. Litvinenko was born in Voronezh, Russia on December 4, 1962; spend time as an officer in the Committee for State Security KGB and lately in the Federal Security Service.
His service to the security service abruptly ended after he made public allegations of illegal activities within the FSB, the report of Sir Owen said. Amid turmoil he created with his public statements and after, as he said, refused to work for Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko left Russia in 2000. As the report notifies, he arrived in the UK with his wife and son on November 1, 2000, requesting political asylum at the border point. UK granted him asylum, after which Litvinenko settled at the 140 Osler Crescent, Muswell Hill in London and worked as a journalist and author. In the thousands of documents included in the Sir Owen report, one of the collected information says that Russian Business oligarch Boris Berezovsky (1946-2013) financed at first Litvinenko housing in London. Aside journalism work, Litvinenko, prepared in-depth due diligence report on Russian individuals and companies.
The mysterious death
The report says, on November 1, 2006 he fell ill and it was admitted to Barnet General Hospital two days later, on November 3. Twenty days later, Litvinenko became unconscious and suffered cardiac arrest. Revival was commenced, but terminated. He was pronounced dead on November 23, 2006 at 9:21 p.m. The cause of his illness was determined hours before he died, when the samples of his blood and urine sent to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston confirmed the presence of extremely high level of the radioactive isotope polonium 210. Subsequent examinations confirmed he died after it was poisoned with polonium 2010.
Sir Owen wrote he is sure that, “Litvinenko died at 9:21 p.m. in University College Hospital on November 23 after cardiac arrest, from which medical professionals were unable to resuscitate him; the cardiac arrest was result of an acute radiation syndrome from which he suffered; the ingestions of the 4,4Gbq polonium 210 caused the acute radiation syndrome.”
Who Contaminated Pine Bar and teapot?
From the mid-October 2006 until he reached the hospital, Litvinenko spent his last days with two persons, also associated with the previous Russian security services and several visits to British companies trading domestically or internationally with oil. Litvinenko arranged meetings with the companies, which reportedly showed interest to cooperate with Russian partners. But, reported business driven meetings did not result with any business deal, as Litvinenko fall ill and died in the hospital. It was the strange news even for 2006, when the media broke the news that a former Russian agent died after being poisoned with a radioactive material-polonium 210.
Report of Sir Owen says that, “Abundant evidence shows Litvinenko met Andrey Lugovoy and his associate Dmitri Kovtun at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair in the afternoon of November 1, 2006. The forensics shows that the Pine Bar was “heavily” contaminated with polonium 2010. The highest readings were from the table Litvinenko was sitting and from the inside from one of the teapots. No comparable levels of contamination were found at any other places Litvinenko visited that day.”
Owen’s report says he is sure Litvinenko “ingested the fatal dose of polonium 210 whilst drinking tea in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel during the afternoon of November 2006.” Owen says he is sure “Litvinenko did not ingest the polonium 210 by accident or to commit suicide. Rather, and that others deliberately poisoned him. He is sure; Lugovoy and Kovtun placed the polonium 210 in the teapot at the Pine Bar on November 1 2006. They did this with the intention to poison Litvinenko.” Before the deadly doze, Sir Owen says, “Two men had made an earlier attempt to poison Litvinenko, also with polonium 210 at the Erynis meeting on October 16, 2010.”
Owen says, “he is sure Lugovoy and Kovtun knew they were using deadly poison, but he don’t believe they knew what chemical precisely they were handling was. He is sure they have acting on behalf of others to poison Litvinenko. When Lugovoy poisoned Litvinenko, it is probable that he did so under the direction of FSB.” As a strong probability he found that Kovtun took part in the poisoning and he was acting on behalf of FSB, possibly indirectly through Lugovoy, but probably to his knowledge. The FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Nikolai Patrushev and by President Putin, the report says.
Russia refused to extradite Lugovoy and Kovtun to face criminal charges in the UK since the Russian Constitution provides, a citizen of the Russian Federation may not be deported from Russia or extradited to another State.
Who can produce Polonium 210?
Chemist Marie Sklodowska Curie and her husband Pierre Curie, pioneers in the research of radioactivity discovered polonium in 1898. Marie named the element after the birth country of Marie, Poland. Polonium is a very rare element, and only 100 micrograms of polonium are present in tone of uranium. Po-210 is extremely radioactive and one gram of Po-210 will emit 140 Watts. Polonium is element of early nuclear weapons.
Even though Po-210 is no longer produced in west, Po-210 production continued at the former Soviet nuclear weapon city Arzamas, which is not called Sarov, Norman David Dombey, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics at the University of Sussex from 1989 to 2003 said to Sir Owen. The Owen’s report says that the Avangard programme at Sarov “could unquestionably have been the source of the polonium ingested by Litvinenko.”
Polonium 210 used to kill Litvinenko either probably came, or even must have come from Russia, the report explains. Professor Dombey said the Avangard programme was the only one commercial producer of polonium 210 in the world. Lyudmila reactor at Mayak was one of a handful reactors worldwide that were sufficiently powerful to irradiate the quantities of bismuth needed to produce the 50 microgram quantity in play here.
A group of Princeton University has been working with the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) on plans to convert Russian nuclear weapon facilities into civilian facilities. Report says that Po-210 production is considered a major commercial activity on the Avangard laboratory in Sarov. However, other witness said that PO-210 could have been produced somewhere entirely different, including a research reactor outside Russia.
In the records delivered by Professor Dombey, he excludes that Po-210 used to poison Litvinenko came form commercial suppliers. Dombey on November 12, 2007 says, “Russia sells Po-210 to other countries. It is possible to purchase it without any license from suppliers such as Nuclear Scientific, Sandia Park, New Mexico for $79; a disc with secure packaging with the mass of Po-210 is about 20 picograms. It will need 270.000 discs to have enough Po-210 to have 50% chance of poisoning adult male within one month.
But, when questioned by the Duncan Ball from the Metropolitan Police Service, International Atomic Energy Agency stated that it is unable to say at which reactors Po-210 is produced. “As long as the neutron flux level is sufficient and reactors design permits irradiation Bi-209 sample it is possible to produce PO-210 at any other reactor. PO-210 can be produced at powerful neutron spallation sources driven by a high-energy and high-intensity proton accelerator,“ IAEA said.
- Website of the Litvinenko Inquiry
- Sir Robert Owen, the Inquiry Chairman, published the report about the death of Alexander Litvinenko on 21 January 2016.