My friends and I have been recently discussing this case.
I've been following this case with great personal interest.
It reminds me of a famous case involving a toxin that mimicked a heart attack in the victim, which was injected into a Soviet defector via the tip of an umbrella. Ricin I believe was the toxic agent in that case. Some of you may be familiar with those events.
Anywho, with the proper analysis they should be able to determine the delivery method of the poison. If it was ingested then that will narrow the suspect list considerably if he survives to testify or give details.
If it was injected into the victim by some other method then that will give strong clues all by itself, assuming secondary testimony and evidence exists, such as videotapes. However given the fact that he was meeting a contact I would imagine a former operative as experienced as he would have swept the area or made sure that the possibilities for observation were extremely limited. His contact and/or attacker would have known that as well, and would likely be just as fastidious about security matters and avoiding direct observation.
Let's assume for a moment that it was not his contact that developed the toxin or was the agent of delivery. That means of course someone else knew of the meeting. There's your vector of overlap right there. (There is always the possibility it was purposely self delivered or accidentally ingested, but those are not very likely probabilities.) However that does not necessarily mean that either the victim or his contact were aware of the third party or that either knew their movements were being observed or their communications intercepted.
There is also the very real and distinct possibility that the contact, not Litvinenko, was the real target. Maybe both were. At this point it is nearly impossible to analyze who was the real intended target without proper background information on the contact.
Of course a careful and detailed analysis of what occurred differently between contact and victim would give good and vital clues as to how delivery was made, when, and by what actual agent.
…… is also quite correct about motivation being open-ended at this stage of the investigation. Since so little hard information is known at this point it is very difficult to resolve the probability aspects related to possible motives.
However personally I think it was politically arranged and/or motivated by reasons related to espionage and national security. I have studied the case involving the assassinated Russian journalist. She was assassinated not because of her criticism of Putin, in my opinion, but because of her recent gathering of information about how close to collapse Russian efforts are in Chechnya. If Chechnya collapses then the entire South Western frontier could follow suit from the example and Chechnya is the Russian Iraq in many respects, but unlike our Iraq Chechnya sits on the border. Making it far more directly dangerous to Moscow and to the Federation. Think of a hostile Southern and South Western Islamic Frontier, a US allied Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, a US Allied Pakistan and a US friendly India, and China as a wild card and Russia is nearly completely surrounded. That's basis for paranoia even among the hyper-paranoid Russians. You can bet dollars to doughnuts some in the Kremlin, some in the military and some in the Services are at least a bit skittery about the likely near term prospects.
I think it quite possible that many people in the Russian government, fearing a collapse of support for Chechnya would lead to abandoning the entire area and therefore exposing Russia to the danger of an indigenous regime, likely Muslim, and openly hostile to Moscow gave at least tactic support for the idea of assassinating the journalist. Therefore someone in the Russian government and/or military decided to use their contacts within the Red Mafia (who also had no love for her) to provide logistical and maybe monetary support to contract the assassination. The police did not find the man because he was an outside contractor or was "washed" by the military and/or Intel services before he could be tracked.
As odd as this may seem she could have also been assassinated by the Chechnyans (I use this term as opposed to Chechen to distinguish the rebels from the Russian backed government). The reason is that apparently her contacts were deep among the rebels. If she had planned on exposing rebel leaders or their operations, or they suspect she were going to, down she would go, and quick. Apparently, and there is no real way to verify this, one of the last stories she was working involving Russian torture of Chechnyan rebels. If that story included operational details of information gained through torture then that kind of information might sit very poorly with both Chechen military leaders and Chechnyan rebels. The rebels have already shown they will kill children; a journalist would be nothing by comparison. Assassins kill Russian journalist on a regular basis. I have yet to discover how much of what she was working at the end was really recovered or if what was apparently recovered and printed was planted. I doubt we'll ever really know.
In any case I suspect that Litvinenko's meeting with his contact did not really involve her assassination, or it would not have been publicly advertised as such. That's cover, and a good one since it is tangential, but likely not instructive. What it more than likely had to do with is either what she had really discovered (the reason or reasons she had been assassinated) and/or information regarding a movement within the Russian military and/or Intel services to abandon Chechnya or something about Chechnya itself which could have been used either against Putin or against the rebels, or both.
Putin would not have had to approve such an operation nor need make overt attempts to be directly aware of it, it could have been a rogue operation, or it could have been Chechnyan. But I agree with Gordievsky, the odds are very good that Putin at least knew the operation was afoot, if it was indeed a Russian operation.
We also have to consider the fact that retired Spooks rarely really retire. Litvinenko was more than likely employed by MI5 or MI6, at least on a freelance or consulting basis. Neither Putin nor the Chechnyans, nor the Chechens for that matter have any real interest in seeing a leak downstream to London, especially with the current situation in Iran and the Middle East. British Intel and Security would not play that data publicly and directly but could use that information as leverage in other respects. The British are already every bit as aware as we are of Red Mafia and official Russian efforts to supply arms to various enemies of ours around the world and to barter for gaining greater influence in the Middle East and Iran.
The British cannot afford to see Russian interests triumph in the region. I am very certain that the British took a positive and up-front interest in this meeting and that they were expecting Litvinenko to pass something of what he discovered. Even if they did not monitor the meeting real-time I cannot imagine they were not expecting "to gather and collect" at a later date.
In any case I'll continue to follow this case with some real interest and fascination.
Addendum: This case just keeps getting more and more interesting.
LONDON — A former Russian spy and fierce critic of the Kremlin who is fighting for his life in a London hospital may have been given a radioactive poison, a doctor said Tuesday.
Col. Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken former KGB and Federal Security Service agent, "has some symptoms consistent with thallium poisoning and he's also got symptoms consistent with some other type of poisoning, so it's not 100 percent thallium," Dr. John Henry, a clinical toxicologist at University College Hospital, told reporters.
"It could be radioactive thallium," he said, adding that Litvinenko may require a bone marrow transplant.
Thallium is a colorless, odorless and water-soluble heavy metal, and can be deadly in even tiny doses of as little as one gram.
Litvinenko was under armed guard at the London hospital, the victim of what his friends and fellow dissidents called an assassination attempt by the Russian government. The Kremlin and Russia's security agency have strongly denied any involvement.
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