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Answering your questions. First, the translation (into English, I don't read Italian) of Gordievsky's words seems to be OK. Second, MK is a pretty yellowish newspaper, which used to be very liberal and popular in late Soviet times. It belongs to its long-time (from 1983) chief editor, Pavel Gusev (here is the latest table of ownership of Russian mass-media, Russian only). Famous journalist Kholodov, killed in 1994 by exploded briefcase that was supposed to contain documents on corruption from the military, was from MK. The paper is sometimes described as a tabloid with a political bent.

Gusev has not really been Kremlin's friend, but this seems to have changed in the last couple of years. At least, some journalists from the "Kremlin pool" complain that MK gets preferences. Given that it's one of the largest circulation dailies (around 2,1 million; only Komsomolskaya Pravda, another tabloid with political bent, has more), I'm not surprised. Gusev also became head of the communication, information policy and press freedom Committee at the Civic Chamber.

Some other interesting pieces from the interview:


     -- Откуда, на ваш взгляд, в Лондоне так много следов полония-210? Их количество просто поражает.
     -- В Англии настолько тонкая и точная аппаратура, что в его обнаружении ничего особенного нет. Такого рода материал, когда его носят туда-сюда, перекладывают, передают из рук в руки, естественно, обязательно оставляет следы. Просто, видимо, его русские "носители" и предположить не могли, что в Великобритании есть такая аппаратура.

Where from are there so many polonium-210 traces in London? Their amount is staggering.
In England they have such fine and precise equipment that it's not strange that it [polonium] was discovered. Such material, when it is brought here and there, replaced, transferred from hands to hands, naturally leaves traces. Probably, its Russian "handlers" could not imagine that there is such an equipment in the Great Britain.
.......
    -- Как отреагировал Скотленд-Ярд и английская разведка на ваше сообщение о приметах предполагаемог&# 1086; убийцы? Они не сочли это разглашением данных следствия? Или это было согласовано?
     -- Примет убийцы мне никто не сообщал -- о них я узнал из немецкой прессы. Эти подробности я и пересказывал английским журналистам. Как вы себе представляете: Скотленд-Ярд будет мне, частному лицу и пенсионеру, сообщать о приметах убийцы? Это чистая фантазия.
    -- То есть вы все взяли из газет?
     -- Из немецкой и некоторых других стран этого региона. Я читаю по-датски, по-норвежски, по-голландски. Практически вся пресса этого региона, включая люксембургскую, писала на тему Литвиненко очень много, и показывали многочисленные сюжеты по телевидению. Оттуда, кстати, очень многое попало в британскую печать.

How did Scotland-Yard and English intelligence react to your statement on the assumed assassin's description? Did they consider it divulging the investigation materials? Or was it coordinated?
No one reported to me assassin's description - I learned about them from German press. These details I was re-telling to English journalists. What do you think - would the Scotland-Yard tell me, private person and a retiree, about the assassin's signs? It's a pure fantasy.
So, you learned everything from the newspapers?
From German newspapers and those from some other countries of this region. I read Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian. Almost all the press of this region, including the Luxemburg one, was writing about Litvinenko a lot, and a lot was shown on TV. That's where from a lot appeared in the British press.
.........
    -- В последнем интервью Би-би-си вы заявили, что несогласны с версией о двойном отравлении, но она не совпадает с мнением Марио Скарамеллы. На чем основываются ваши выводы?
     -- Если бы было первое отравление, то он умер бы на две недели раньше -- это элементарно. Это случилось бы до 1 ноября. То есть первое отравление -- чистая выдумка, еще одна ложь. Просто была репетиция убийства, а тех, кто ее проводил, решили сделать якобы тоже жертвами отравления. На самом деле они получили очень слабую дозу и умрут только через пять лет. А нелегал, который положил ампулу, умрет через три года.

In the last BBC interview you said that you don't agree with the double poisoning version, but it [version] does not coincide with Mario Scaramella opinion. What do you base your conclusions on?
If there were double poisoning, he'd have died 2 weeks earlier - it's elementary. This would have happened before November 1. Therefore, first poisoning is a pure fantasy, another lie. It was murder rehearsal, and it was decided to make those who conducted it "poisoning victims" as well. In reality, they received a very small dose and will die only in 5 years. The illegal who deposited the ampoule will die in 3 years.
.........
    -- Я не видел официальных сообщений о том, что Литвиненко поднимался в номер к Луговому 1 ноября. Где он об этом сообщил? И откуда следы полония в гостинице, в которой Луговой и Ковтун жили 16 октября?
     -- Об этом говорили в программе "Панорама", которая показала о Саше фильм. В этом фильме опросили всех: и Марину, и помощника Березовского Гольдфарба. И самого Березовского опрашивали -- он сидел у постели Саши часами. Вот откуда стало известно, что Луговой и Литвиненко поднимались в номер.

I didn't see official reports about Litvinenko going up to Lugovoi on Nov 1. Where did he say about it? And hod did polonium traces appeared in the hotel where Lugovoi and Kovtun lived on Oct 16?

Program "Panorama" which showed a film about Sasha [Litvinenko] reported this. In this film, they asked everyone: Marina [Litvinenko's wife], and Berezovsky's aide Goldfarb. And Berezovsky himself was asked - he spent hours at Sasha's bed. This is how it became known that Lugovoi and Litvinenko went up to the room.
...........
   -- Так все-таки: был ли четвертый человек (Владислав или Владимир) на встрече? Луговой это категорически отрицает. Да и камеры гостиницы, насколько мне известно, этого четвертого не зафиксировали... При каких обстоятельства&# 1093; киллер, по вашей версии, встретился с Литвиненко?
     -- Англичане знают, что зафиксировали камеры. А зачем так говорит Луговой -- я не знаю. Наверное, таким образом он показывает, что это он убил Литвиненко, что он единственный кандидат на роль убийцы. Он хочет присвоить славу убийцы, чтобы получать более крупную пенсию. А сам умрет через пять лет от белокровия. Это глупая позиция. Кто мог подложить полоний? Только специалист. Вы знаете, даже когда проводится простая операция спецслужб со сдачей наркотиков, всегда присутствует специалист отдела, который занимается ядами. Так кто же доверит человеку без специальной подготовки препарат стоимостью в 10 миллионов? Должен быть специально подготовленный человек, у которого знания, ответственност&# 1100;, тактика, опыт. А готовиться и тренироваться этот человек, насколько мне известно, стал с начала прошлого года. Где-то с февраля--апреля. И в Лондон ездил, везде ходил, все изучал.
    -- Откуда такая информация?
     -- Я не могу сказать, откуда я все знаю. Но это точно.

Still, was there the fourth man (Vladislav or Vladimir) at the meeting? Lugovoi flatly denies that. And hotel cameras, AFAIK, did not register this fourth one... How did the killer meet Litvinenko, in your opinion?

English know what the cameras have registered. Why Lugovoi says so, I don't know. May be, in this way he shows that it's him who killed Litvinenko, that he's the only candidate for this role. He wants to appropriate the assasin's fame, to receive a higher pension. But he will die in five years of leukemia. This is stupid. Who could put polonium? Only a specialist. You know, when special services conduct even a simple operation with handing over drugs, a specialist from the department of poisons is always present. Who would entrust chemical worth $10 mil to a non-specialist? There should be a specially prepared man, with knowledge, responsibility, tactic, experience. AFAIK, this man started to prepare in the beginning of the last year. Some time from February  to April. He traveled to London, walked everywhere, studied.
How do you know this?
I cannot say where from I do know. But this is truth.

There is one more sentence immediately after your last quote (on Scaramella):


Не надо всему верить, что он говорит.
Do not believe everything he [Scaramella] says.

So, in fact, this interview is only tangentially about Scaramella, Prodi, and Litvinenko. Looking at the larger picture, I'm left with a very strange impression. Assassin trained for months, but no one cared to check if there are precise spectrometers and radiation counters capable of picking up alpha-particles in the UK: simply un-f..ing-believable. Major piece of his information comes from unnamed newspapers in too many languages, so that at least any single journalist won't be able to check the source. There are strong hints that he has other sources of information, but it's not Scotland Yard. He still says Scaramella isn't really reliable, but he's a veritable KGB fighter and should be commended for that. "Panorama", which interviewed all the Berezovsky men, should be believed at its word.

Wide speculation starts. Gordievsky is the most important KGB defector still alive abroad. He lives under constant monitoring by UK counter-intelligence, and his livelihood depends on them. His interviews are, in effect, a well-designed leakage, not from Scotland Yard but from MI5. It is in domestic secret service interests to make the murderer(s) as sophisticated as possible, because otherwise there are grave questions about its competence.

Therefore, if Scotland Yard is in reality uncertain, a pressure should be applied on it to make it lean on its doubts in a specific way. As Valery Velichko, head of the "Pride and Honor", remarked a couple of months ago (I'm citing from memory): "The Brits are coming to Russia to find a Russian trail; if they don't find it, there will be no official allegations". So, we are seeing a strong push to make them discover that trail.

Today, BBC (in Russian) reported that Sunday Times learned Marina [L's wife] was told by investigators that the perpetrators are likely to avoid responsibility, and that the investigation is likely to be closed despite the fact that sufficient evidence against Lugovoi and Kovtun was collected, because it is highly unlikely that the suspects would be extradited from Russia. For some reason, I can't find a similar report on BBC English site.

Of course, it would be very easy to mask the failure to find a strong enough Russian trail by referring to impossibility of extraditing Russian citizens, but at the same time to strongly hint who was the perpetrator. A due slander at its best, I'd say. The same logic would apply if the Russian trail turned out to be of a nature different from that required - for example, if it turned out that the trio (or the four) were involved in nuclear smuggling, but Litvinenko got too greedy and was murdered by his companions.

So, my tentative conclusion: Gordievsky interview is simply a part of the intelligence game, and too many mass-media sources seem to be following this script. Along the way, Russian opposite numbers are made look extremely stupid. Which means that we'll learn the truth not earlier than in 75 years, unless the materials get exposed earlier after, say, socialist or Islamist revolution hits UK and documents of its secret services become as available as those of Marcus Wolf's organisation.

by Sargon on Sun Jan 28th, 2007 at 08:27:03 AM EST

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