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Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File (2007)

Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File. Documentary. (2007, 104 mins) IMDB

...Why did the Russians kill Litvinenko?...

T

he documentary, Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File, chronicles the battle between a former FSB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, and the powers of the Russian government, in particular Russian president Putin.

Litvinenko's life and death made headlines around the world because he was poisoned in London with Polonium 210--a rare radioactive metal.

For those who may not know, the FSB is simply the KGB by another name in the post-communist Russia. Unlike the US and UK were there is a split between domestic counter-intelligence and foreign intelligence gathering, the FSB operates internally and externally.

Litvinenko worked for the FSB in what you might consider an FBI-type capacity. His job was to track down the Russian mafia and apparently he was good at it, but that's not what got him in trouble.

Post the fall of communism, Russia and Chechnya engaged in a struggle where Russians soldiers fought in Chechnya and Chechnya's carried out terrorist acts in Moscow. The details aren't important to this discussion, but the controversy included Litvinenko's allegation that certain bombings weren't carried out by the Chechnya rebels, but by the FSB, by the Russian government. He alleges a conspiracy theory to garner support among the Russia people for continued military action in Chechnya. He and others were outspoken about the Chechnya issue.

Were they telling the truth? Was there a conspiracy? I don't know. I have no way of knowing, but it is certainly plausible. It is believable. A number of critics were murdered and the suggestion is Putin was behind it. They died to silence the criticism and I suppose to send a message to others who might want to be critical.

If it is true the Russian government was behind his murder with Po-210, why would they use such a method? The material is so rare, the source can be traced and it points to Russia. They have the largest supply of it (97% of the worlds supply). It immediately tells the world, they murdered him and therefore he was probably telling the truth about the FSB involvement in the Moscow bombings. It seems like such a stupid thing to do. So why?

The most plausible scenario? Pathologists and physicians and detectives would find a dying Litvinenko and not know the cause. They would not know it was Po-210. Standard methods of murder would have been detected and uncovered thereby increasing the chance of finding the murderer. Russia believed his death would remain a mystery. They miscalculated. The British brought in military scientist who were able to discover the Po-210. A smoking gun with Russian fingerprints.

The sad truth for the his family is a lack of justice. A murder suspect is known and living freely in Russia and can't be brought to trial in London.

There is supposedly a gentlemen's agreement between nations where one nation doesn't murder someone in another country. Russia and Israel didn't the memo because there have been a number of murders carried out by both countries in foreign territories.

While many fears about nuclear physics and radiation are overblown and hyped, Po-210 would be a terrorists dream because ingesting a tiny amount is lethal and could kill many people. There's a story there, but it's been done.

Posted 2009/01/23 at 20h01ET in Movie Commentary.

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