Alexander Litvinenko: The Russian FSB Agent Poisoned With Polonium-210

In 2006 ex-Russian FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210 in London where he was living under political asylum after publically stating Russia had become a "mafia state" under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.

What really happened to Alexander Litvinenko
Alexander Litvinenko died from polonium-210 poisoning on Novermber 23, 2006

In May 2001, Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB, and FSB agent was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom after he fled prosecution in Russia. Before Litvinenko left Russia he made public allegations that the FSB, the Russian security service that replaced the KGB following the collapse of the Soviet Union, was engaged in corruption with the Russian mafia. After his allegations, Litvinenko was removed from the FSB and later, Vladimir Putin, who was at the time the FSB director, claimed that he had personally sacked Litvinenko from his position.

When the Russian defector arrived in London his accusations against the Russian government continued, claiming that Russia had become a "mafia state", under Vladimir Putin, who was now the President of the Russian Federation.

Alexander Litvinenko Was Poisoned With Polonium-210

On November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko fell ill, and just two days later was taken into Barnet General Hospital before being transferred to the University College Hospital in London.

Intensive testing was carried out to attempt to ascertain what was causing his health condition, eventually, it was determined that Litvinenko had been poisoned with the highly radioactive isotope polonium-210.

Polonium-210 is not only an extremely dangerous substance, but it is also extremely rare, with almost all of the world's supply being produced in Russia, where it is used in the nuclear power industry as well as in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.

If ingested, a piece of polonium-210 smaller than a grain of salt is likely to be fatal.

Over the course of three weeks, Litvinenko's health condition deteriorated and, on 23 November he died, suffering in agony during the lead up to his death.

Police now knew the nature of his illness and were able to follow a radioactive trail left by the polonium around London. High levels of radioactivity were found at a hotel where Litvinenko had met with three Russians just before he became ill, the highest level of polonium was found in a specific teapot. This confirmed to police that alexander Litvinenko had been poisoned by drinking spiked tea.

Authorities identified two of the Russians that met Litvinenko at the hotel as Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun (Kovtun recently died of Covid-19). Their movements before and after the meeting were quickly traced through the radioactive trail they left behind in the hotel rooms, cars, and airplanes they had used. Litvinenko only left a trail of radioactivity after meeting the Russians in the hotel, showing that this was the first time he had come into contact with polonium-210.

Andrei Lugovoy (left) and Dmitry Kovtun (right) were the main suspects in the killing
Andrei Lugovoy (left) and Dmitry Kovtun (right) were the main suspects in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko

By the time authorities had established this, both Lugovoy and Kovtun had returned to Russia. The UK made an attempt to extradite both of the suspects back to England to face murder charges, however, the application was refused because the Russian constitution does not permit the extradition of Russian nationals.

The third Russian man at the meeting has never been identified, he was introduced to Litvinenko as Vladislav Sokolenko, but that is all we know, and he left no radioactive trail.

Was Alexander Litvinenko Assassinated By The Russian Federation?

Both Lugovoy and Kovtun worked for branches of the Russian security services and, as both left a radioactive trail before the meeting, the police were confident that they were the ones who had poisoned Litvinenko.

Polonium-210 would be an extremely difficult substance to obtain and by far the most likely source would be the state-run laboratories in Russia where it is produced. All of the evidence points to Alexander Litvinenko being assassinated by the Russian secret services, but the ultimate question of who exactly was responsible remains unanswered.

The Russian government denied any involvement in the death of Alexander Litvinenko and Vladimir Putin even dismissed the accusations, saying that Litvinenko did not know any state secrets, implying that he was not important enough to warrant an assassination.

Litvinenko had defected six years prior to his death and had been working with the British intelligence service MI6, so even if he did hold Russian state secrets, he would likely have already have handed them over. This tends to suggest that however much the Russians may have held a strong hatred towards Litvinenko and regarded him as a traitor, it made little sense to kill him in such a way that would quickly implicate the Russian Federation.

It is hard to believe that the Russian secret services would not have been aware of the potential diplomatic damage that would be caused by carrying out an assassination such as that of Litvinenko on foreign soil.

Did Putin Personally Order The Assassination Of Alexander Litvinenko?

Many researchers believe that Alexander Litvinenko was killed on direct orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin. This theory makes sense, as well as silencing a vocal critic of Putin, the killing of Litvinenko sent a strong message to other Russian defectors and dissidents around the world.

His slow and agonising death would not only silence a vocal critic of Putin but also show traitors of the Russian Federation the consequences of going against the state, wherever in the world they were or however well protected they believed they were.

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