Sunday, 14 February 2016

Watson: “The 1st November 2006.”

For a significant number of people in both the UK and Russia, the easiest way to bring this day to mind is to recall the Champions League game which took place that evening, between Arsenal and CSKA Moscow. Unusually, Sir Robert Owen’s report contains a factual error in Part 6, paragraph 225 – he describes “Tuesday 31 October 2006” as being “two days before a Champions League football match between Arsenal and CSKA Moscow”. As all football fans know, Champions League games never take place on Thursdays; only on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Owen is more reliable however, when at Part 6.228 he names the people relevant to the Inquiry who attended this game:

“The core of the group was Mr Lugovoy’s family – himself, his wife Svetlana, his two daughters Galina and Tatiana, who were 19 and 20 respectively, and his eight year old son Igor. Also in the group were Tatiana’s boyfriend, Maxim Begak, and a business partner of Mr Lugovoy named Mr Sokolenko.”
6.229: “[…] Whilst in London the group (with the exception of Mr Begak) stayed at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. They all flew home together on Friday 3 November.”
6.230: “[…] DI Mascall referred to evidence that Mr Lugovoy had made arrangements to obtain tickets for the football match from Mr Shuppe, Mr Berezovsky’s son in law, in September 2006.”

Oddly, Berezovsky’s name is completely absent from both of Richard Watson’s extended Newsnight reports (the first being 20 minutes long, the second 8 minutes). Putting it bluntly, this is like making a programme about Sherlock Holmes, and specifically The Final Problem, without mentioning Professor Moriarty. The analogy is not as far-fetched as one might think. According to Wikipedia, Berezovsky was…

“…a doctor of technical sciences, and author of… academic papers and studies such as ‘Binary relations in multi-criteria optimizations’ and ‘Multi-criteria optimization: mathematical aspects’.”

In Conan Doyle’s story, it is said of Moriarty that…

“At the age of twenty-one he wrote a treatise upon the binomial theorem which has had a European vogue. On the strength of it, he won the mathematical chair at one of our smaller universities”.

Sir Robert Owen doesn’t make the same omission, though he does rather gloss over Mrs Justice Gloster’s 2012 judgment (as quoted on page 1). Exiled in London since 2000, Berezovsky yearned one day to return to the Russian political arena, but he understood more clearly than most that in politics, reputation is everything. It seems reasonable to suppose therefore that the 2012 judgement, leading as it did to his being labelled ‘the disgraced oligarch Boris Berezovsky’, was a contributory factor in his suicide in March 2013.

According to Wikipedia:

“After Berezovsky's death, a spokesman for President Putin reported that he had sent a letter to the Russian president, asking for permission to return to Russia and seeking "forgiveness for his mistakes." Some of Berezovsky's associates doubted the letter's existence, claiming that it was out of character. However, his girlfriend at the time, Katerina Sabirova, later confirmed in an interview that he did in fact send the letter:
"I said that they will publish it and you will look bad. And that it won’t help. He answered that it was all the same to him, that in any case all sins were blamed on him and that this was his only chance."
It was claimed by anonymous sources that rival Roman Abramovich delivered the letter to Putin personally, having received an apology from Berezovsky himself. Both Putin's chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, and Abramovich's spokesman alluded to the letter being passed by a "certain person", but did not go into details due to the personal nature of the issue.”

Watson: “Alexander Litvinenko caught on CCTV, on his way to a meeting with two former Russian spies at the upmarket Millennium Hotel in central London.”

A factual inaccuracy on Watson’s part - according to Sir Robert Owen’s report, only one of the two Russians, Andrei Lugovoy, was a former member of the KGB. Having known Lugovoy since childhood, Dmitri Kovtun served in the Soviet then Russian army and was posted to Germany. He deserted in early 1992 however, travelling with his then wife to Hamburg and claiming asylum.  

“He [Litvinenko] thought he was among friends.”

By the standards of the often unsavoury circles in which all three of them moved, he was among friends. Indeed both Lugovoy and Litvinenko (in his police interview of 18 November) testified that they had more than one friendly telephone conversation, after the poisoning. In the same interview though, it’s true that Litvinenko confirms he was deliberately trying to keep the two Russians in the dark as to any suspicion which might fall on them, so as to leave open the possibility of luring them back to London. One other thing to note; of the two Russians, he was inclined to be more suspicious of Dmitri Kovtun, primarily because he didn’t know him (as witnessed by his thinking his first name was ‘Vadim’ rather than ‘Dmitri’). He therefore assumed incorrectly that either then or in the past he must have worked for the KGB and/or FSB.

“22 days later, he was dead. It was perhaps the most audacious murder on British soil ever, a crime that shocked the world. We followed the evidence at the public inquiry into his murder, interviewing all the key witnesses in this extraordinary story, and revisiting the key locations.

Alexander Litvinenko was the Russian spy who turned against his old paymasters.”

There is more than a hint of euphemism about this, but no need to labour the point.

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