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View Full Version : Ex-KGB Spy Poisioned With Radioactive Material; How Many More Were Poisoned?


Mother_Marjorie
Nov 25th, 2006, 12:22 AM
The Daily Mail

How many more were poisoned?
By STEPHEN WRIGHT, TAHIRA YAQOOB and REBECCA CAMBER

As the deadliest poison known to man was revealed to have killed Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko, the question last night was: How many more lives could it claim?

The 43-year-old former KGB officer was the victim of polonium 210, a radioactive element used as a trigger in nuclear weapons.

It is so powerful that a lethal dose can be passed on through the body in sweat or saliva.

So his widow Marina, 44, and ten-year-old son Anatole could have been contaminated just by kissing him as he fought for life in hospital. They are said to be at greatest risk.

But up to 100 other contacts will be tested among hospital staff, family members and restaurant workers who came into contact with him.

Chillingly, traces of polonium 210 have been detected at Itsu, the London sushi bar where Mr Litvinenko ate with a contact on November 1, at the four-star Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, where he met another associate that day, and at the family home in North London.

A large quantity of radiation from polonium 210 was detected in Mr Litvinenko’s urine, apparently a few hours before his death. But last night a post-mortem had yet to be carried out because of fears that the body presented too much of a danger.

Detectives and scientists expressed open astonishment that such an elaborate and evil Cold War-style hit could happen Britain, describing the murder as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘mind-boggling’.

It threatened to cause a serious diplomatic rift between Britain and Russia, at a time when relations are at their worst since the end of the Cold War.

Security sources said MI5 believes the Russian intelligence services assassinated Mr Litvinenko. Britain made a formal request to Moscow for help in the murder investigation. But Mr Putin left diplomats open-mouthed with claims that the former spy did not die ‘a violent death’.

On a day of extraordinary developments in the murder investigation: • Mr Litvinenko condemned President Putin from beyond the grave as ‘barbaric and ruthless’ in a statement dictated before his death. • His grieving father said he had been killed by a ‘little tiny nuclear bomb’ and warned that the Russian regime was a ‘mortal danger’ to the rest of the world. • The Government’s Cobra special emergencies committee met every few hours to discuss the crisis. • The Foreign Office ordered the Russian Ambassador to pass on a demand for information. Alexander ‘Sasha’ Litvinenko died in intensive care at London’s University College Hospital on Thursday night after suffering heart failure.

At a dramatic press conference in London the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that he had been killed by a ‘large dose’ of radioactive polonium 210, and not thallium as previously thought.

Only a speck of it would have been enough to prove fatal once it got into his system, probably by being slipped into his drink or on to food.

Whoever did this must have been expert in the dosage because giving him too much would have caused almost instant death while it took weeks for him to become gravely ill, giving the killer ample chance to escape.

Although there is no cure for polonium poisoning – with Mr Litvinenko thought to be the first human victim – experts stressed that the risk to others was low because the substance must be ingested to become harmful.

HPA chief executive Pat Troop said: ‘The people who are likely to be at risk are those who have come into contact with his bodily fluids.

There would be a potential radiological hazard to people who could have ingested or breathed in the contaminated body fluids but this hazard is likely to be restricted to those who had very close contact with Mr Litvinenko.

‘Normal hygiene and cleanliness practice in hospitals should have reduced the likelihood of any significant intake by NHS staff and others and therefore any radiation hazard.

Describing the case as ‘unprecedented in the UK’, Mrs Troop added: ‘As far as the sushi restaurant is concerned we have found some radiation there. It was in a fairly limited area around the table where he was sitting.

‘The key people are the ones who had close contact with him.’

Dr Michael Clark, also of the HPA, said: ‘There is no antidote for polonium 210. The number affected could be approaching 100.’

In a statement composed two days before he died, Mr Litvinenko blamed President Putin for his illness. He said: ‘You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

‘You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.’

The dead man’s father Walter Litvinenko broke down outside University College Hospital as he said ‘a terrible thing’ had happened to his son.

‘My son died yesterday and he was killed by a little tiny nuclear bomb,’ he added. ‘It was so small that you could not see it. But the people who killed him have big nuclear bombs and missiles and those people should not be trusted.’

The extraordinary nature of Mr Litvinenko’s murder increased speculation that he had been killed by his former KGB employers as a warning to other ex-spies who might want to criticise the Russian regime.

Mr Litvinenko had openly criticised President Putin and had been investigating the assassination of a Russian journalist who had, in turn, spoken out against Russia’s policies in Chechnya. Downing Street was at pains to avoid fingering Russia as the culprit, amid fears of a potentially explosive diplomatic confrontation.

But the Foreign Office said officials had discussed the issue with the Russian Ambassador, Yuri Fedotov, at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

‘The ambassador was asked to convey to the authorities in Moscow a request to provide any information they might have which would assist the police with their inquiries.’

In Moscow, however, President Putin said: ‘As far as I understand from the medical statement, it does not say this was the result of violence, this was not a violent death.’

British security sources revealed that MI5 has identified as the most likely culprit the FSB – the Russian Federal Security Service which succeeded the KGB.

But they ruled out suggestions that Russian assassins remain at large in London, armed with lethal radioactive material.

Mother_Marjorie
Nov 25th, 2006, 12:24 AM
Polonium-210 one of world's rarest elements

POSTED: 12:26 p.m. EST, November 24, 2006

LONDON, England (AP) -- Polonium-210 -- the radioactive substance used to poison a former Russian spy in London -- is one of the world's rarest elements, first discovered in the 19th century by scientists Marie and Pierre Curie.

It is highly lethal when ingested, and extremely hard to detect, experts said.

For days doctors struggled to identify the poison that led to the rapid deterioration of Alexander Litvinenko's health, and ultimately, his death late Thursday.

On Friday, British police said trace amounts of polonium had been found in Litvinenko's urine, and that it had been deliberately used to kill him.

"This seems to have been a substance carefully chosen for its ability to be hard to detect," said Dr. Philip Walker, a physics professor at the University of Surrey.

The former Soviet Union reportedly used polonium in its space program in the 1970s, and it is used also in devices designed to eliminate static electricity.

Polonium is so exceedingly rare that only about 100 grams is believed to be produced each year, said Dr. Mike Keir, a radiation protection adviser at Royal Victoria Infirmary.

"Only a very, very small amount of this would need to be ingested to kill," Keir said. "Unless you can remove the material, there's very little you can do except treat the symptoms."

Given his symptoms -- including hair loss, organ failure and immune system breakdown -- experts said that earlier hypotheses, such as thallium poisoning, were reasonable.

"Trying to identify the exact agent that was making him sick was like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Dr. Alistair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University. There are numerous toxins capable of causing such serious damage without being immediately identified in the body, he said.

The alpha rays emitted by polonium are extremely hard to detect, and a fatal dose of the element may have rapidly penetrated his bone marrow without raising immediate suspicion. Earlier this week, doctors said Litvinenko was in need of a bone marrow transplant.

"As a result of alpha ray radiation, there are very clear genetic changes in the body," Keir said. "But to know for certain that it was polonium radiation, you need to actually find polonium particles," he said.

Polonium occurs naturally in very low concentrations in the Earth's crust, and was first discovered in 1898 by Nobel prize winning chemists Marie and Pierre Curie, as they were searching for the cause of radiation decay in uranium. They named it polonium in honor of her country of origin, Poland.

Rtael
Nov 25th, 2006, 02:47 AM
Yeah...I won't be traveling to Russia anytime soon, if ever. This can't be good for their tourism industry...

meyerpl
Nov 25th, 2006, 03:03 AM
Fuck! Nobody ever told me being a KGB spy could be dangerous!