Contributor Jeremy Putley points out that The Observer now reports that not only did British police warn Boris Berezovsky that he was an assassination target a month ago, they also warned Maria Litvinenko and Akhmed Zakayev. So it appears that not only was the Kremlin stonewalling the Litvinenko investigation, it was also plotting to commit other Litvinenko-like acts against other British-based Russian dissidents. If true, this would be an act of war by Russia against Britain, and it seems to be true. In the wake of the announcement of these threats, Russia is backing down, seeking raprochment.
Police tracking the would-be killer of business tycoon Boris Berezovsky feared two other London-based Russian dissidents were also assassination targets, The Observer can reveal.
Scotland Yard warned the widow of murdered ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko and the exiled Chechen envoy, Akhmed Zakayev, that there was an increased threat to their personal security shortly before the alleged attempt to kill Berezovsky at the Hilton hotel in Mayfair, London, last month. Police were so concerned they placed a squad of uniformed officers around Zakayev’s house in north London five days before Berezovsky’s alleged assassin was picked up. They also phoned Marina Litvinenko to urge her to take greater security precautions. Berezovsky was told to leave the country for a while after the suspected assassin was flagged entering the UK early last month, a move that saw police take action to protect a number of high-profile critics of the Kremlin living in the UK.
Alexander Goldfarb, a close friend of Alexander Litvinenko and another outspoken critic of the Kremlin, said uniformed officers were outside Zakayev’s house when he attended a party there on 16 June, shortly after arriving with Marina Litvinenko from Hamburg where the two had been promoting their book about the poisoning of the former KGB agent. ‘There were about eight officers outside,’ Goldfarb said. ‘When we asked what was happening we were told there was a security alert. And just after we landed, Marina’s driver said the police had phoned six times to talk to her while she was away. They detained this guy [the alleged assassin] on the twenty-first. It seems they had a lot of intelligence about what was going on and that the attempt to kill Berezovsky wasn’t an isolated event.’
Police fears of a heightened threat to Zakayev and Marina Litvinenko emerged as Berezovsky gave further details of the plot to kill him. In an interview with a Russian news agency, he said he was told the assassin would be someone he knew who would shoot him in the head. ‘He wouldn’t attempt to hide from police, he would explain his actions by saying he had some kind of business claims against me,’ Berezovsky said. ‘In that situation – where a person had alleged business claims, where he didn’t attempt to run away or hide – there’s the possibility that he would be sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to English law, they’ll let you out after 10 years with good behaviour. He would get money [for carrying out the assassination], his family would get money; in other words, he would be completely taken care of. And he wouldn’t be serving his time at [Moscow’s] Matrosskaya prison; he’d be here in an English prison… He could eat well, watch television, exercise, learn a trade.’
The latest lurid claims have again drawn attention to the murky world inhabited by Berezovsky and his London-based acolytes. Moscow has consistently denied having any part in Litvinenko’s death or an assassination attempt against Berezovsky. There is speculation Berezovsky leaked details of the alleged attempt to kill him to the media to antagonise Moscow, once the British authorities had returned the suspected killer to Moscow. There have been reports the man was tracked by the security service, MI5, as he toured London in an ultimately futile attempt to buy a gun only to be arrested by police and handed to immigration officials.
The timing of the story has also been seen as suspicious, coming in the middle of a row over Britain’s attempts to charge a Russian businessman, Andrei Lugovoi, with Litvinenko’s murder. The Russian authorities have refused to hand Lugovoi over, prompting Britain to expel four officials last week. In reply Russia expelled four British diplomats. However, in a sign that Russia wants to calm the increasingly fractious row, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested the Kremlin now wishes to see a line drawn under the affair. Lavrov told the Interfax news agency: ‘Russia is interested in having relations with Britain brought back to normal.’