The Daily Telegraph yesterday published an exceptional scoop that throws light on the murder in November 2006 of Alexander Litvinenko, a one-time member of the Russian secret service. Having uncovered links between Vladimir Putin and the criminal under-world, he had fled to London. Establishing contact with MI6, the British secret service, he was presumably informing on Putin. It has emerged that all the while the U.S.’s National Security Agency was intercepting communications providing evidence that Litvinenko had been executed on orders of the Russian state.
Aged 43, Litvinenko was poisoned by radioactive material that only a state has the resources to develop or to utilize. Two Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoy and Dimitri Kovtun, are accused of arranging the meeting to administer the fatal material in a cup of tea. Radioactive trails in hotels and aircraft incriminate both men. Both have also defied efforts to extradite them. Carpet-bagging a seat in the Duma, Lugovoy even claims parliamentary immunity — practically an admission of guilt. At last a retired judge, Sir Robert Owen, is to hold an official inquiry into the Litvinenko murder, and he says that he has seen “prima facie” evidence that the Russian state is responsible. The NSA has fulfilled its task.
In Soviet days, Stalin was in the habit of ordering assassination. A favorite saying of his was, “No man, no problem.” Litvinenko gives the posthumous warning that Stalin has a pupil in the Kremlin.