An Alternative View on the Litvinenko Inquiry

David Habakkuk on Sir Robert Owens’ Inquiry

I am afraid Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry, and the media reception of it, marks a further stage in the consolidation of ‘Ingsoc’ in the U.K. The charitable view of Sir Robert is that he is a judge in whom the propensity common to many of his kind automatically to believe the police and intelligence services, and to disregard the counter-claims of those they accuse, has reached a point of near insanity. The uncharitable is that he is engaged in a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth. These are not claims I make lightly. Throughout, Sir Robert has conducted his investigation on the basis that the integrity of the investigation by Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) into Litvinenko’s death could be taken for granted. He has done so despite the fact that claims by SO15 on crucial matters have changed with a frequency which makes those made by Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth’ look like models of consistency. Take for instance the crucial claim that one can rule the possibility that Litvinenko knowingly had contact with polonium prior to his meeting with his supposed assassins, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, on the late afternoon of 1 November 2006. The current version is summarised – and accepted without question – in section 6.274 of Owen’s report. (See .)
According to Owen’s summary: ‘Mr Litvinenko left home at about 12.30pm. He travelled into central London by bus and tube, arriving at Oxford Circus shortly after 1.30pm. The bus on which he travelled was subsequently identified and tested for radiation. No radiation was detected.’ According to the ‘evidence’ on which Owen relies, the bus in question was a number 274, identified by Litvinenko’s Oyster Card – an electronic device which everyone who travels regularly on public transport in London uses. Unfortunately, this account is new. Originally, it was suggested that Litvinenko was given a lift into central London by car. Then he was said to have travelled the whole distance on a number 174 bus (which also goes near his house) which was identified by a £1.50 ticket. Only in April 2007, in a book by the former BBC Moscow Correspondent Martin Sixsmith, did the Oyster Card appear, and the bus was still a 174. In the August 2008 study by the ‘NYT’ correspondent Alan Cowell, this became a 174 bus and unspecified tube. According to Sixsmith’s – vivid – account, Litvinenko arrived in central London at 11.30am – two hours earlier than the time now given. None of the journalists involved appear to have bothered to check what their SO15 sources told them with what others had been told. This is stenography, not journalism. Most if not quite all of these discrepancies, together with a large number of similar ones, have been pointed out in memoranda supplied to the Inquiry team, starting back in September 2012. I have been assured by the Solicitor to the Inquiry, Martin Smith, that these memoranda have been read. And it gets worse. Although I am still reading through the report, it appears that Owen has chosen to accept the version according to which Litvinenko, together with associates like the Italian Mario Scaramella and their common collaborator Yuri Shvets, was engaged in bona fide attempts to uncover terrible truths about Putin and his ‘sistema’. To do this, Owen both suppresses a vast mass of information, much of it unearthed by Mr Italian collaborator Mr David Loepp, and repeatedly drawn to the Inquiry team’s attention by myself, and makes highly selective use of the information he does accept into evidence. A key document is a letter supplied to Scaramella by Litvinenko on 1 December 2005 for use by the so-called ‘Mitrokhin Commission’, of which my Italian collaborator Mr David Loepp obtained the full (Italian) version, and an abbreviated (English) version was presented at the Inquiry. Not discussed by Sir Robert Owen, however, was a key claim in the letter: that the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich, while acting as an agent for the FSB and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’, was attempting to obtain a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ for Al Qaeda. This was clearly an attempt to capitalise on the ‘suitcase nuke’ hysteria. At the time he and Scaramella were collaborating in disseminating this and similar claims – with the involvement of other figures, such as Oleg Gordievsky, Vladimir Bukovsky, Vladimir Rezun (aka ‘Viktor Suvorov’), and the former CIA operative Lou Palumbo – Litvinenko was, as we now know, an agent of MI6. (See .)
This farrago was supported by material from the famous Melnichenko tapes, which were transcribed and disseminated by Shvets, the whole operation being funded by Boris Berezovsky. As is evident to anyone who has looked at all closely to them, what used to be the conventional wisdom – that the published excerpts were not edited – is patently false. If you do not believe me, have a look at the key transcript, available at Another key document which has surfaced at the Inquiry is an affidavit by Litvinenko taken in Tel Aviv by Michael Cotlick, a personal assistant to Berezovsky, in April 2006. This relates to a dossier circulated by Russian intelligence to Israeli, Italian, German and French intelligence – also U.S. intelligence as we know from other sources. This dossier made claims about Berezovsky’s supposed links to mobsters and Chechen guerillas. In brief, the Litvinenko mystery is part and parcel of the larger story of claims and counter-claims about the relationship of, on the one side, both Russian oligarchs and Western intelligence services to jihadists, and on the other, the Russian security services to jihadists. One can see these claims and counter-claims surfacing in a symposium on the well-known ‘neocon’ site ‘’ on 27 October 2006 – that is, at precisely the time polonium was being smuggled into London. In this symposium, which is full of hysteria about – palpably non-existent –’suitcase nukes’, what is clearly a polonium-beryllium initiator, which was also palpably non-existent, is identified as the key missing element required to make such a device functional. (See .)
This and much further information has also been discussed by me in memoranda submitted to the Inquiry team – repeatedly. However, according to Sir Robert Owen, the only possible explanation for the presence of polonium in London in October and November 2006 is a deliberate plot, probably approved by Putin, to assassinate Litvinenko. On this, I think the last word should be left to ‘Natasha’, the ‘Humor Editor’ of ‘Russia Insider’, who imagines how a conversation on the subject back in 2006 in the Kremlin might have gone. (See .) On a more serious note, some further relevant material on all this is provided in three ‘diaries’ which Mr Loepp and I put up on the ‘European Tribune’ site back in 2012, which contain links to earlier pieces written by the two of us separately: although in my case with extensive help from him. (See .)

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