Dec 03 2006

Berozovsky Is The Key To Timeline

Some very interesting information is being reported by the Sunday Times which really trashes the entire idea Litvinenko was contaminated at the Sushi Bar (where all the assassin theories begin). The extended timeline goes back to October 25th, when Lugovoi comes to London to meet Litvinenko and others, and stays in the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel:

On October 25 Lugovoi again flew to London, this time on a British Airways plane, and checked in to the Sheraton Park Lane hotel.

“In the evening [of the next day] I met with Litvinenko in the lobby of the hotel and we had a drink together at the bar,” he said.

He met Litvinenko again in the hotel bar on the following evening. “Then early in the morning the next day October 28] I flew back to Moscow on BA, the flight which leaves either at 8 or 9am.”

Note that Litvinenko stays out of the rooms during these meetings, but is there every day Lugovoi is there. As I mentioned before the logistics of smuggling would suggest one not go with the contraband if possible. What if Oct 25 is the day the Polonium comes into country and Lugovoi and Litvinenko are simply coordinated the next steps. Or is there a hand off at this time? What is important is it seems the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel may now be the first contamination site:

Polonium radiation has been found at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel.

Neither Litvinenko nor Lugovoi is thought to have visited the Sheraton Park Lane hotel after October 28. So how did polonium contamination get there? Was Lugovoi already contaminated by then? Did he bring it with him from Moscow?

On the eighth floor of the Sheraton a policeman last week stood guard just outside the lift. To the left, the entire corridor was sealed off by a barrier. Behind it investigators were hard at work.

According to a note given to guests at the hotel, police had discovered traces of polonium-210 in five rooms.

Five rooms. That would be something. Was it five mules carrying some of the material? Or was it one person who trailed the material from room to room. Or was this a distribution point, where the material was divided to travel onto separate destinations. The five rooms, if true (and I have lots of doubts about all the reporting) is disturbing.

The next time Lugovoi comes to town is for the game and with his family. I agree he would not risk them and I doubt this trip was nothing more than a celebration (and maybe some final arrangements). Then we turn to Berezvosky:

A further mystery arises because of conflicting evidence about Berezovsky’s Mayfair office, which is near the Sheraton. One source last week claimed that Lugovoi had visited the office during his trip to London between October 25 and 28. But another well-informed source said that Lugovoi had visited it on October 31 or November 1.

The timing is important, because whenever Lugovoi did visit the office he appears to have been strongly radioactive — traces have been found there.

He and Berezovsky greeted each other with a hug and Lugovoi sat on a sofa while they drank white wine. The source said: “When investigators later tested for radioactivity, the maximum activity was on the cream-coloured sofa where Lugovoi was sitting while he drank wine.”

In fact, both accounts could be right. If the actual transport was on from October 25-27, then Litvinenko would be the courier relaying messages between Lugovoi and Berezovsky. And then with Lugovoi’s return on 11/1 (he flew in on 10/31) then there is another reason for Litvinenko to schlep messages between Lugovoi and Berezovsky. Note that Lugovoi was the rich, successful ex-FSB officer – making him more likely to be profiting from a black market. Litvinenko seems to have been relegated to the lower rungs – since he never established his own wealth beyond selling books which ranted at Putin.

If the Sheraton Park Lane was the first site of contamination, and then came Berezovsky’s office, then the only question is why was there such a big mess at one of the last places in the timeline – The Mayfair Hotel? Even the assassination theory goes haywire here?

If Lugovoi had his own customer for a slice of the goods, he may have come back on 11/1 to transport his portion to his customer once the material had been divided. And it may have been at this point the accident took place which really contaminated the effort. Up until then the material looks to have been well controlled, with minimal exposure and contamination. But at some point on Nov 1, something happened and Litvinenko received a fatal dose (100 times over) and some major spill happened in the Mayfair. Did a damaged container finally fail completely at the Hotel after leaking around London? More questions than answers I am afraid to say. But the story does provide some hints:

Experts say that, however carefully this preparation was done, small particles would have escaped and sprayed onto the person’s hands and clothing.

“Polonium is very difficult to hold in one place,” said Priest. “The moment you open a container of polonium some of it will come out and deposit on surfaces. It’s due to something called ‘recoil’ — basically the alpha particles kick out atoms of polonium.”

Now we can look at a ‘recoil’ dose as a container is opened, versus a major spill or some other event. It seems it will be difficult to separate low contamination that is external to the person and a recoil and secondary contamination. All those incidents probably happened at ;locations where the public is now cleared to go. And the nasty sites with large doses would still be closed off (but indistinguishable from a simple crime scene being closed off).

Still, we need to place when Berezovsky’s office was contaminated any by who to really make progress on this puzzle.

Update: My theories of a bungled smuggling effort rely on two methods of transport and contamination. One is transport internally to a host (Litvinenko in this case) where contamination is from bodily fluids (the urinal at the Millenium Hotel in Mayfair). The other method is as a residue of some form on the exterior of a person. New evidence is showing the second transport method does exist and is important in resolving the trail and timeline:

Guzzanti said later: “I have just spoken to Scaramella. The health service told him: you received a lethal amount of polonium, but at the same time it was 10 to 20 times inferior to Litvinenko. So he says, ‘I will pull through, I am strong’.” Did he receive a small, incidental dose of polonium at the same time as the main attack on Litvinenko? Was the restaurant the site of the poisoning? That is the working hypothesis of investigators, said his Italian lawyer yesterday.

The documents passed between Scaramella and Litvinenko at Itsu also appear to have been contaminated.

After the meal, the Russian hurried to Berezovsky’s nearby office where he appeared, according to a well-informed source, in an “agitated” state.
He showed the documents to Berezovsky, who skimmed through them and passed them to a colleague. Litvinenko then photocopied them. Tests later found traces of radiation on the photocopying machine.

This is important because it says something about the form of the Polonium as it is passed as a residue. My theory is whatever contaminated Litvinenko also poisoned him. Let’s just assume for arguments sake the contamination came from a large cloud of something saturated with Polonium-210. This would contaminate Litvinenko’s clothes and skin, and could be how he inhaled so much material. Splashing from a spill if the material was in liquid suspension would also result in contamination and poisoning.

I have long suspected that Litvinenko met with Lugovoi before and after Scaramella. If a morning meeting with Lugovoi was the incident where the accident took place, the timeline makes a lot of sense, as does the radiation trail. One would ask what about the Oct 25th contamination sites? As I said above, the material could have come into the country on 10/25, and then be separated and heading to points unknown. And it was in this second distribution phase when the accident took place.

And if this portrait of Litvinenko is accurate then his role as a simple mule (carrying contraband) or messenger makes total sense. Clearly he was not a serious threat to Putin.

Update: And then there is the always recurring Chechen connection with Akhmed Zakayev:

What is known is that in the late afternoon Litvinenko called Akhmed Zakayev, his Chechen dissident friend and neighbour, on his mobile phone.

“He said he was in the city centre and since I was in town I agreed to give him a lift back home,” said Zakayev. About 5.15pm Zakayev and his aide picked up Litvinenko, who read the documents aloud as they drove home.

Police have checked this vehicle and found contamination. Litvinenko, it seems, had been poisoned sometime between leaving home that morning and driving back.

So it was Zakayev who picked Litvinenko up. But why would Litvinenko call Zakayev? Could he have been reporting in on the status of his day’s events? Here is a real question, when did Litvinenko talk to Berezovsky during the day. You would think he would call to make sure Berezovsky was in his office that day before heading across town.

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “Berozovsky Is The Key To Timeline”

  1. clarice says:

    It is interesting how two people–you and I –can read the same story and draw two such opposite pictures from the same facts, AJ.

  2. Lizarde1 says:

    Wonder where Litvinenko’s clothes that he was wearing at the time of the “accident” are – were they disposed of before anybody thought to care about them – do the police have them – wonder what the level is in the pockets of his pants if they have the clothes. If Litvinenko passed the stuff on to Lugovoy after the Sushi restaurant then of course no container would have been in his pocket – only residue.

  3. clarice says:

    The reports are the clothing was laundered..remember the contamination occurred three weeks before his death.

  4. Carol_Herman says:

    The “OY” question. A/J, if this was an accidental spill. The perps are in fear of cancer! And, where would they go for “more information?”

    Can you check your “incoming” logs. To see where you get “clicks” from? I’m sure you’re on a list where information flows freely. So, yes. The bad guys have been here.

    Like Data Mining. You’re gifted with information that’s like a needle in the haystack. Have you thought of this angle, yet?

  5. jerry says:

    I think you’re misrepresenting the assassination theories AJ, Clarice and I have both suggested that Sasha could have been poisoned before the sushi bar events (the poisoned tea hypothesis).

    If there was a leak and Sasha died due to just a bit of this, his clothes would have to be blazing hot (remember he got a 100x fatal dose), even if they were subsequently washed his home would be blazing as the stuff would have done it’s creepy recoil thing and seriously contaminated the place. I still think that most of the radioactivity was contained within Sasha, with smaller secondary spots on people etc…. I’d bet that the five rooms were contaminated via housekeeping in the hotel.

    On the other hand it’s hard to imagine Sasha hanging out all the time with Lugovoi and BorisB and then having them poison him. How then to reconcile Lugovoi’s contamination and Sasha’s death without some smuggling angle? An unknown hitman – the trick with this being that the unknown person must be mixed up with Lugovoi in some way.

  6. AJStrata says:

    Jerry and Clarice,

    Check the price of 100 lethal doses and tell me again this was an assassination. If the price of the bullet alone (here being the Polonium-210) is tens or hundreds of millions of dollars then that is one uselessly expensive weapon.

    On the flip side, that is the price of a nuclear dirty bomb. You folks are free to disagree, but I think the assassination theory would only hang around to distract the public from the black market theory. Assassination is less threatening than Al Qaeda and Chechen Rebels at work to get a dirty bomb.

  7. AJStrata says:


    Yes, I have been curious to see who has visited (and my Europe traffic is up). But there are pleny of ways to spoof and hide an address and it is not worth the effort to bang my head against that wall. Now are others probably watching who have better tools?….

  8. clarice says:

    Let’s suppose ytheygot it free? I do. And check the three new Times articles I posted on the latest thread.

  9. crosspatch says:

    Don’t assume that all 5 rooms of the hotel were contaminated on the same day or even during the same few days. You know that 5 rooms were contaminated but you don’t know when. If there was some kind of leaking container, or if a container was opened routinely during a transaction to test for alpha emission in order to verify that it was in fact the material it was supposed to be, then those rooms could have been contaminated during previous transactions.

    Polonium is generally made in relatively small amounts. It could be that there were several transactions over a period of time with different amounts of contamination happening each time.

  10. mariposa says:

    The five rooms being contaminated piqued my interest, too. And how about this as yet another, albeit somewhat mundane, explanation:

    Suppose the polonium 210 was powder in a container, as was speculated on another thread yesterday. As the 5-pp. London Times story states, no matter how careful one is, a “recoil” action would occur on opening that container which would spread the polonium. If that was somehow spread on the carpet, which was later vacuumed by a hotel maid, and all five rooms in that vicinity cleaned with that vacuum and the same bag, it might spread one leak to five rooms, with none of the rooms’ occupants having been related. Maybe, maybe not.

    I still think Putin did it for the sheer reason Clarice states: all his enemies seem to turn up dead. How convenient for Mr. Putin, who then wrings his hands and claims he’s framed and people are trying to embarrass him. And that dead bodyguard of his — Roman Tsepov — suffering very similar symptoms as Litvinenko is another flag for me. Was that polonium 210 poisoning? Did Tsepov know too much?

  11. clarice says:

    Why did Litvinenko ask Zakayev for a lift home? Let me guess..because they were neighbors and it would be no problem for Zayayev?

  12. crosspatch says:

    Well, Litvinenko apparently called him, Zakayev said he happened to be downtown. What interests me most is that Litvinenko appears in an “agitated state” when he arrives for his meeting after the sushi bar meeting. This would have been very shortly after he was contaminated. Did he realize he had been contaminated with a lethal dose of polonium? If I knew I had just been dosed with enough to kill 100 people, I think I might be “agitated” too.

  13. tempester says:

    If Litninenko was involved in trafficking he would have known from the beginning what he had been poisoned with and would have most certainly have notified the hospital when they began treating him. Instead they searched in vain for the cause of his illness untill it was too late.