By Luke Harding
1 November 2006. Alexander Litvinenko is openly poisoned in critical London. Twenty days later he dies, killed from the interior. The poison? Polonium; an extraordinary, deadly and hugely radioactive substance. His crime? He had made a few strong enemies in Russia.
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Goldfarb resembled a New York professor – round metal glasses, beard, corduroy jacket, slightly dishevelled appearance. He had a shining intelligence, easy manner, and superlative English. I would later get to know him well. Goldfarb also possessed a cool head, invaluable in this moment of crisis. A couple of days after Berezovsky’s summons, he arrived in Antalya. He rented a hire car and the four of them – Goldfarb, Litvinenko, his wife and son – drove to the Turkish capital Ankara, Goldfarb’s wife Svetlana travelling by plane.
Berezovsky said he’d been ‘inspired to write this letter by the pressing issues of national security’. He mentioned his ‘good long-term relations’ with the FSB chief, whom he commended for ‘honesty and professionalism’. Berezovsky then explained how he had learned of the plot to kill him – and how Litvinenko and the four other whistleblowers had written up a report for the presidential administration. The investigation into the plot had gone nowhere, though, Berezovsky complained. He urged Putin to pursue the matter and to secure ‘the constitutional order’.
The police retreated and left. At the time, Berezovsky scarcely knew Litvinenko, the good Samaritan. Afterwards, he said, they became ‘very close’. ’ Litvinenko was still working for the FSB but from then on became an informal part of Berezovsky’s entourage. Meanwhile, Litvinenko was growing disenchanted with the leadership of his own organisation. The FSB was riddled with corruption, he learned. In 1997, he was posted to the FSB’s directorate for the investigation and prevention of organised crime, a covert unit known by the initials URPO.
A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding