Kremlin Assassinations Abroad: A Historical Perspective

Kremlin Assassinations Abroad: A Historical Perspective


17 May 2018

Marina Litvinenko:

Uhm good afternoon.

Thank you very much for inviting me and speaking here in front of such very nice audience.

It was almost 2 year ago when I was here and I was very proud to produce public inquiry verdict. It was a justice what we achieved almost 2 years ago.

At first I didn’t expect, I am going to be here and we have another act, act of another terrorism: attempt of poisoning of another Russian citizen – Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

What does it mean? Does it mean they didn’t learn lessons what happened in case with my husband? We didn’t take it serious, why? it’s a very serious question what do we need to do, it would never ever happen again.

Before that I would like to take you a little bit more to the past, not as far as Paul did. I am not going to take this explanation of Soviet Union hysteria but it’s more about my husband case. When I talking about Alexander Litvinenko, we remember 2006 London poisoning of radioactive polonium but Sasha became famous even much earlier.

In 1998, he took a part of press conference in Moscow. It never happened before when officers of FSB taking this open talking press conference, when a first time Sasha blamed his organisation of corruption, criminality, drug business, it was unbelievable, and most people couldn’t believe or somebody didn’t take it serious.

Of course, Sasha after that was not forgiven. He spent nine months in prison. He was accused of doing some criminal in his investigation what was not true, and when he realised it something going to be worse, he escaped from Russia for not only to protect himself, to protect his family. And when we started our new life in UK, Sasha still working and still tried to show people what this organisation FSB taking power in Russia.

Because 2000 if you remember was a year of promising, Russia was a new country with a lot of opportunity, everybody thought it was going to be a business, a friendship, everything what you expect from great country like Russia, but unfortunately it was not everything like this.

Sasha published two books during this time, when it’s again through his book, he tried to explain what does it mean this organisation. His first book was growing up Russia. It’s about apartment bombing in 1999 and the north, it was a Chechen people who blamed of doing this, and second Chechen war started straight after. Sasha didn’t investigate this case because he was in prison in this time but, he was able to analyse all the situation and his book was published in 2001 and it was serious accusation of FSB as organisation who committed this crime. Again, it was very difficult to believe security service doing something against its own people.

But second book, what was published but never translated English called ‘Gang of Lublyanka’, and Sasha explained all experience of his working and FSB, and how all this corruption and criminal business started. These people who became top officers of FSB, who became very powerful people in the government. But again, this message was not taken very serious. And I don’t blame people, because it’s very difficult to believe even independent newspapers and kind of oppositioner, they still believe is a not way back to Russia to this dark time.

But when we see what happened after 2001, when independent TV channels were closed, when we started talking about freedom of speech, we should realise something wrong. And what Paul already mentioned it’s support, it’s a new law what was provided in 2006, I will remind you. Of course, who is interested in policy of Russia maybe remember how it started. As in 2006, it was the first law and it was a federal law on counteraction of terrorism it called and called in short ‘terrorism law’.

One of the striking feature of this terrorism law is that it makes provision for Russian forces to take action against terrorism beyond the borders of the Russian federation. But it was not only, it was a second law in of the 2006 laws was not like the first second law. It was approved by the State Duma on 8th of July 2006 and by the Federation Council on 14th of July 2006, and received presidential approval on 27th July 2006 and called ‘extremist law’. Extremist law contained its expansive list of activity.

My husband Sasha was a very concerned about this. He, especially after in July 2006 when Putin signed this law what allowed Russian special service without any investigation or court hearing to kill people who Russian authorities considered to be enemies of the Russia state. As it was a serious message to everybody. And straight after this, it was article published in the Times written by Bukovsky, Vladimir Bukovsky, and Oleg Gordievsky, and it was published just before G8 meeting in St Petersburg. And it was a very serious message again. Needless to say, this is extremely dangerous development unless the Western leaders are prepared to share responsibility for murders like the one committed in Qatar by Russian agents.  We already have examples of what happened in Qatar and former Chechen President Yandarbiyev was killed. They must cancel, and what they ask: they must cancel their meeting or the very least should protest loudly against such abuse of G8 chairmanship. Again, people try to take attention in 2006, unfortunately it didn’t happen.

And what happened in 2006 November, I just started my speech, Sasha was poisoned and radioactive material polonium was discovered. And after investigation, after public inquiry, and when we received this all evidence and what happened in London in 2006, I had a meeting with the home secretary Theresa May – now Prime Minister of UK and it was very good meeting, and after that I received a letter. I will share some sentences from this letter. This letter date 8th of March 2016 and she said: they have also made clear to Russia our profound concerns in relation to the inquiries finding on prove Russian state involvement and specifically the role of FSB in your husband death. This has been done at ministerial and senior diplomatic levels and I can assure you will be done repeatedly and directly. Whilst we have to have some form of relationship Russia, it is guarded and heavily conditioned as a prime minister put it – Prime Minister was David Cameron – as a prime minister put it, ‘we do it with the clear eyes and very cold heart. I and this government I’m clear that we must continue to pursue justice for your husband’s killing and that we will take every step to protect the UK and its people from such a crime ever being repeated’. Unfortunately, it’s happened again, and I remind you, March 2018, we have attempting of poisoning of Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal. I’m finished for now.


Marina, you were very active pushing for a stronger British response after your husband was murdered. We saw after the Skripal poisoning a stronger response, I’m not certain it was much stronger in Britain, in fact that I thought their response was rather weak but across the West stronger, was that response strong enough or was more necessary?


Uhm, first of all, uhm, when it all happened with Skripal, I received a lot of questions: is it similar? Is it exactly the same what happened to your husband?

I would say it was a some similarity because it was against a Russian citizen or Russian person in a British soil. But something, or most time, it was a difference.

First of all, we know Sergei Skripal was a double agent and Sasha was not, my husband. And Sergei Skripal was very quiet and nobody heard about him before he was attempted to be poisoned but Alexander Litvinenko was a very active and he was open critical to Putin and everybody, I mean in a circle of Russian people in the UK knew about him.

But what was a very important reaction of British government and authorities was much quicker. We should wait for almost two weeks and a half before investigation has started what happened to my husband. But we know about Sergei Skripal, everything was just in second day and third day we knew it was a nerve agent, in a few days Theresa May in parliament said we knew this was produced in Russia and they asked Russian government to respond. She didn’t blame immediately but she asked for respond and all escalation of this conflict was very strong. Again, it was a very serious and what was the more important it was absolutely different reaction of international community, it was not what happened in the case of my husband. Again, everybody been relaxed and couldn’t believe Russia state might committed such crime. But everything what happened in the Sergei Skripal case it was immediate.

And you know, it was not only a UK government, it was as a government of European countries. It was USA government who sent Russian diplomats out from countries. And that this was exactly people who committed this crime didn’t expect international solidarity. And I think its again it’s another point how we need to fight against of this such crime to solidarity in react it’s very strong.

And another things after that, British Parliament took very close attention to previous cases what it could say unexplained deaths or look like people committed suicide. And now we have 14 cases taking serious by British parliament to investigate it more. We are talking not only about Russian citizens or Russian nationalities, most of them British, but we have a very strong link between of these people connecting to Russian business.

And a third point to what happened after Sergei Skripal case and of course it’s connecting to my husband investigation too, British parliament launched very special Russian committee, what was not before and they tried to take serious many different aspects of communication to Russia. And of course when we’re talking about sanctions it must be personal sanctions. And people who benefit from Putin’s regime, and we know who might be, who became extremely rich not because they are so talented or they made very nice business, no, they have just asset to oil and gas and most like this it’s a most state controlled business. But they’re allowed to have a luxury life in Europe, UK in US, and I think it’s a very serious point to discuss. Are you allowed to people who agree this way to assassinate people and abroad and to have this luxury life in your country.


Ok, I would like to ask you a quick follow-up Marina and then I will bring in Keith.

Are you confident, you mentioned now that the British parliament is looking at 14 other cases of Russian businessmen or people connected to Russian business who died under mysterious circumstances, do you believe there’s going to be lots of public attention to this in the months and years ahead?


I believe. I believe something change since my husband, in two years after my husband death, and now Sergei Skripal attempting to poison, it’s a different attention to all these cases.


Marina would you like to jump in? *conversation on what the appropriate response to Skripal poisoning/ potential future assassination should be? *


I only want to defend a little bit Theresa May in a way. She was not Home Secretary in 2006, and all investigation was started in 2006, it was not under her. She became in 2010 and all her involvement was like this. I would just try to make some notice.


Audience questions:

Nadia Meccano:

US [inaudible] foundation. Every criminal gang has signature ways of assassination. Uhh can you say something about why somebody gets poisoned and why somebody gets shot. Uhhm you haven’t mentioned Nemtsov.

And also, how is somebody selected for assassination, in other words, there are a lot of people and perhaps some of you could be targets of assassination so anything…

And then I’m sorry, a third thing is the issue of being able to go after these, react to these acts. We seem to be constrained by proving who was responsible and that seems to take a long time, so if you could respond to that as well.


I would say just about my case what I know for certain. And we know Sasha was poisoned by Polonium 210 and it was selected just because people should not survive and after death nobody would be looking for this poison. I mean it’s supposed to be, polonium 210 would be not discovered. And Sasha’s death would be unexplained death. And as in other people in a very close circle in London, would be easy to blame. And you have like a two targets: Sasha Litvinenko himself who’s was very difficult person because he started to be involved in investigation, financial crime or very high-profile people from Russia and connecting to organised crime. And second, to blame that circle of committing that crime. And I have proof it’s right now. Because just a few weeks ago general prosecutor of Russia and in front of parliament said: they have their own plan or their own investigation and he blamed not Lugovoy and Kovtun, what two names we have after our public inquiry but Mr. Berezovsky. It’s exactly what they have a plan: Sasha Litvinenko should died and somebody would be blamed. And this was what about was using poisoning to make its looking like.

And another case was Mr. Perepelichniy who was poisoned too, but it’s supposed to look like again, a natural cause of death. He just collapsed during his jogging. And only very hard work of Browder, because Perepelichniy was a key witness of Magnitsky case, and he tried to find what might happened and it was a rare poison found in his body. Again, all poisons used not to look like a poisoning but just like unexplained deaths.

[inaudible] Audience member:

Why were such traceable weapons used to kill A. Litvinenko and S. Skripal? And what can you say on the difference between using Polonium 210 and a nerve agent?


When you are talking about Polonium, you say why it was changed from Polonium to nerve agent, I say Polonium was discovered, it’s supposed to be not and after 2006, any unexplained deaths, you know in 2008 died close business partner to Boris Boris Berezovsky – Badri Patarkatsishvili, and a first checking in his house was for radioactivity.

After Boris Berezovsky was found dead in his house, first checking was for radioactivity. It means, polonium not going to be used anymore because it’s now everybody is going to be concerned about this. Nerve agent it’s something new. Why it was selected it’s still the big question of investigation. And what I see they don’t have any leak from this investigation. What makes Russia’s side, particularly Russian foreign Office very angry they try every time to ask what happened to Skripal, why we don’t able to talk to Skripal, because they don’t have exactly information about this investigation. And only after it will be completed, we will know why it was Novichok used.


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