Jul 9, 2007
Putin's Pestiferous Decembrists
Poet/Sniper/Stalin-, Karadžić-, Bukowski-fan /rabid Anti-Putinite Eduard Limonov pens a piece for the Exile (bottom of the post) that amusingly intersects with the Times Online piece immediately below.
Litvinenko, Lugovoi, Berezovsky, and now Zharko and Limonov. As if the names themselves weren't confusing enough. Enjoyski. -M1
RUSSIAN officials announced yesterday that a criminal investigation had been opened into allegations by a former tax police officer that he was recruited as an informant by MI6 with the help of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent who died of polonium poisoning in London last year.
Vyacheslav Zharko is said to have turned himself in to the FSB, the successor to the KGB, 10 days ago and confessed to having worked for British intelligence since 2002. He claims that he was introduced to MI6 officers by Litvinenko during a trip to London in that year.
Zharko said he met his British handlers regularly in Turkey, Finland and Cyprus and supplied them with analytical reports on Russia's economy and politics. In return, he claims, he was paid about £60,000. He estimates that MI6 spent an additional £150,000 on expenses.
"I needed money so when Litvinenko told me that I could earn easy cash by collaborating with British intelligence I agreed," Zharko, 36, told The Sunday Times in his first interview with a western newspaper. "I saw myself as a consultant. I began to worry after Litvinenko's death because I feared I'd be sucked into something too dangerous. That's when I turned myself in."
The FSB, which has investigated Zharko, backs his claims but will not prosecute him for espionage, saying that he did not reveal any state secrets and had come forward voluntarily. His testimony comes a month after Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB officer named by the Crown Prosecution Service as the prime suspect in the death of Litvinenko, accused MI6 of trying to recruit him.
Russia has refused to extradite Lugovoi, who met Litvinenko on the day he was poisoned, to face trial in Britain and the Kremlin has angrily rejected accusations that it was behind the murder. Like Zharko, Lugovoi, who has protested his innocence, claims British intelligence sought to recruit him with Litvinenko's help.
The dispute has also provoked a propaganda battle between MI6 and the FSB, two former foes that, officially at least, are partners in the fight on terrorism. British investigators are believed to suspect that Litvinenko, a former FSB officer who fled to Britain and was granted asylum, and who became a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, was killed by his former employer.
The FSB rejects the claim and is now hitting back, using Zharko's testimony to highlight allegations of secret MI6 operations in Russia. "For months we've been accused of killing Litvinenko," said an FSB source.
"The Brits have been waging an information war against us and now we are responding in kind. We have gone public with Zharko's story because it proves that Britain is actively spying against Russia and that Litvinenko was in cahoots with MI6." Zharko claimed he had first met Litvinenko through Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian tycoon and opponent of Putin.
Berezovsky has been granted asylum in Britain. A former tax police officer in St Petersburg, Zharko had turned to Berezovsky for help in 2000 when an investigation he had led into a rival tycoon was threatened for political reasons. According to Zharko, Berezovsky — who at the time had fallen out with the tycoon under investigation — used his influence to keep the investigation open.
In 2002 Zharko left the tax police but stayed in touch with Berezovsky who by then had fled to Britain after falling out with Putin. It was during a trip to London five years ago that the billionaire, who according to Zharko knew him under the false name of Vladislav Petrov, put him in touch with Litvinenko. In turn, Litvinenko introduced Zharko to several British "friends", who claimed to be business consultants but who later revealed themselves as MI6 officers and told him they were interested in recruiting him as an informant.
"They agreed to pay me €2,000 [£1,355] a month," Zharko said. "I was told I shouldn't travel to London any more because Berezovsky's entourage was closely watched by Russian intelligence. I was supplied with a mobile phone I was to use to make contact with them, but only outside Russia.
"Litvinenko led them to believe that I'd worked in Russian intelligence so they thought I was a good catch." According to Zharko, during his years of secret work for MI6 he had several meetings in the West with a total of four undercover British handlers. He talked fondly about one of the MI6 agents.
"We spent many nights drinking together and he once told me how he had photographed some secret documents in the toilets of a Moscow restaurant," he said.
Zharko said that at first his British handlers had been interested in information on several Russian companies. Then they asked him to compile a series of analytical reports on the political situation in Ukraine in the run-up to the country's Orange revolution and were also interested in information on any FSB operations against western non-governmental organisations working in Russia.
Zharko claims he supplied his case officers with information he compiled only from open sources. His final meeting with his handlers took place last November in Istanbul, a few days after Litvinenko's death, he said. He last spoke to them on the phone in June.
It is not the first time the FSB has publicly claimed to have exposed an MI6 operation. Last year it leaked footage of four diplomats posted at the embassy, allegedly downloading secret data from a transmitter concealed in a fake rock left in a Moscow park.
"We are in the middle of an information battle," said a British diplomat who was based in Moscow. "Relations were hard enough before the Litvinenko case. They've since taken a sharp turn for the worst. Expect more salvos to be fired."
-Excerpt Times Online
On June 15, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda have published an interview with Andrei Lugovoi, who is suspected by British police to be the executor of Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko's story was a headliner for the world media for the last eight months and is a still a headliner. Exotical weapons used for killing - radioactive polonium - as well as personalities of both the victim (Litvinenko) and the suspected killer (Lugovoi), ex-FSB officers both, keeps interest of media boiling.
For me, nonetheless, it was a shocking surprise to discover that my name was pronounced by the sinister Mr. Lugovoi. During the interview, he said that political killing is in stage of preparation for "some man, who has already obtained the image of a fighter against existing Russian authorities, he is destined to become a sacred martyr. For example, so-called oppositional candidates to presidency. They should hire themselves an enormous security troop... Edward Limonov, Mikhail Kasyanov... I think against them something is in preparation."
Lugovoi attributed the intention to kill me or Mikhail Kasyanov, or both, to Boris Berezovsky. He attributed the killing of Litvinenko also to Boris Berezovsky. As I have no reason whatsoever to suspect London-based businessman Mr. Berezovsky to kill me, I took Lugovoi's threat as a threat of Russian secret services to kill Edward Limonov or (and) Mikhail Kasyanov. A few days ago, we discussed Lugovoy's threat with Kasyanov. We both agreed that through Lugovoi we received threat from those who have killed Litvinenko. (I would say, from Government, from Kremlin, from FSB - the executor.) I smiled, Kasyanov was smiling too, but I have to admit that the man who sent us the threat is the most sinister man in entire world, maybe after Bin Laden. So, it is serious. I am cool, but it is serious.
I should take into consideration that Lugovoi's interview was checked out by FSB experts. Hundred percent it was. Lugovoi could not pronounce his threats without permission from his superiors and his final supervisor, President Putin. Otherwise Lugovoi would be given to British for trial.
By FSB's, by President Putin's logic, by the logic of Mr. Lugovoi, Mr. Berezovsky is guilty by only the fact that Putin, the FSB and Lugovoi have pointed at him. However, every smart man, and even some dummies, understand that Mr. Berezovsky is not a nuclear powered country. He is not a secret service with its enormous resources. Mr. Berezovsky has a goal not to convince Russian citizens. His goal is to prepare the ground for possible false explanation of political killing (or killings). Sure, it is a blatant lie, but when the corpse of an oppositional politician will be found, the explanation will be ready within hand distance: Berezovsky.
Lugovoy is not tried, but details of investigation of Litvinenko's murder didn't leave much doubt about his guilt. The traces of polonium spread over the London routes of Mr. Lugovoy have convinced millions of Brits and Russians: Lugovoy is not for nothing accused of killing. And now that very man, sinister like no one else, is warning Komsomolskaya Pravda readers and world public opinion as to who will be the next victims! It might be a menace, but pronounced by such a man, it is a highly believable menace.
I sleep well. I have good appetite and have no signs of paranoia. But it is a second time for last months that I am receiving death threat. First one was corresponded to me by my lawyer Sergey Beliak, and sent by unfriendly deputy of the State Duma, who was rather happy with message he transmitted. "Say to your client that his elimination is decided in highest places, among high ranking officials of state," he said.
There is no need for exclamations of my emotions. I don't see a need for indignation. I knew from the beginning that I have started a political war against murderers and criminals. A la guerre come a la guerre, as said the French. No Strasbourg Court or United Nations can save my life in Russia. I will do my job. I have no fear.