Sunday, 14 February 2016

The following text in bold print is a transcript of the relevant section of the 21 January 2016 edition of the same current affairs show (Newsnight); the day of publication of Sir Robert Owen’s report.

Presenter Evan Davis: “It’s been a long time coming, nine years since he died, but at last, the full story of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, and the probable involvement of Vladimir Putin…” [Newsnight theme music…]

Sir Robert Owen: [film of earlier press conference] “The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin.”

Evan Davis: “The basic story is known, but the details are remarkable, as are the implications…
“Hello. A Kremlin spokesman called the Litvinenko Inquiry Report a product of the elegant sense of humour of the British. Somehow I don’t think Sir Robert Owen who wrote it will be appearing on Comic Relief any time soon. The spokesman also said it would poison relations with Britain – his metaphor, not ours. The report though is a thorough 329 page account of what did happen and also what didn’t, based on evidence heard in public and behind closed doors. The conclusion was stronger than anticipated, that the killing was probably approved by President Putin himself – no more, no less. The evidence is circumstantial. We’ll look at the implications, but the late Mr Litvinenko deserves that his story be told and told widely, so Richard Watson has taken a detailed look.”

Richard Watson: “Who murdered Alexander Litvinenko, and why? It was an audacious radiological attack on British streets. 200 locations across London were contaminated with radioactive Polonium, including stations and trains. When it comes to Russia’s involvement the conclusions are stark. There’s a strong possibility that the plot to assassinate Litvinenko right here in London was directed by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence service, and it’s probable that it was approved by none other than the Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.”

Marina Litvinenko: “It was relief, because you received a proof of what you tried to say all these years. I can’t say we didn’t take serious [weren’t taken seriously] but it was every time we don’t have no evidence, we don’t have no proof. But after everything what saying in a court and particularly today after report was released, we can talk about for what happened in a different level.”
Watson: “The public inquiry concluded that Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy first tried to kill him on 16 October 2006 after a business meeting he had here in Mayfair. That attempt failed, but when they met him at the Millenium Hotel just down the road, they manged to slip deadly Polonium-210 into his tea, and that was a death sentence.”

Sir Robert Owen: “I am sure that Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun placed the Polonium-210 into the teapot at the Pine Bar, and did so with the intention of poisoning Mr Litvinenko.”

It should be noted that he does not countenance the possibility that the teapot, or any teapot in the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel, could have been deliberately contaminated after the meeting which took place between Litvinenko, Lugovoy and Kovtun on 01 November. However, problems with the teapot scenario don’t end there, as Australian-based practising barrister James O’Neill has pointed out:

This hypothesis of polonium in the teapot is a good example of the fantastical nature of the Owen Report. […] The teapot, into which the polonium was allegedly slipped, was not examined until several weeks after the alleged poisoning, at which time we are told that it had readings “off the charts” [Owen reports that levels of contamination were "extremely high", and highest of all on the "inside of the spout"]. This is in spite of multiple washings in the intervening six weeks, and not a single case of a staff member [or customer that we know of] at the Millennium being affected. That alone would be a fruitful area for cross-examination in a proper inquiry.”[1]

Watson: “The inquiry report states that the two killers were sent by Russia’s intelligence service the FSB, and were acting under its direction.”
Owen: “I have further concluded that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin.”

Watson: “A more serious charge against a serving head of state is hard to imagine.”

It should be emphasised that for more than nine years, Kremlin spokespeople have consistently been not just dismissive but openly derisive of these allegations. However, leaving that aside for a moment; although he is not the ‘head of state’ as such, nevertheless in November 2015 Britain’s serving Prime Minister David Cameron was unapologetic at having ‘approved’ the extrajudicial killing, by drone strike, of Mohammed Emwazi (aka ‘Jihadi John’). So perhaps we can dispense with this further ruse of Watson’s, that “a more serious charge is hard to imagine”.

“Alexander Litvinenko fled Russia and sought asylum in the UK in 2000. A former friend who’s quoted extensively in the public inquiry report, described how the former FSB agent tried to use his old knowledge about Russian organised crime to forge a new career.”

Alexander Goldfarb: “He ended up investigating the top leadership of Russia, and Putin personally, in connection to organised crime on behalf of British and Spanish secret services.”

[1] From article in Dissident Voice, ‘Litvinenko and the Demise of British Justice’ by James O'Neill, 11 February 2016:

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