Dec 21 2006

Marina Litvinenko Speaks Out

Published by at 8:59 am under All General Discussions

The Russian news outlet Kommersant has the chilling recollections of Marina Litvinenko regarding the illness and death of her husband. It is a gruesome reminder of what the wrong material in the wrong hands is capable of doing. And the path to death was a terrible one, that is clear. It is a must read that, for us Americans, sends a shudder regarding medical care in the UK. The fact is Litvinenko was put off by medical services for many days by symptoms that would have landed him in a hospital under observation immediately here in the US.

There are some interestnig segments in the recoillection worth mentioning because thery could reflect on whether Litvinenko suspected what was happening:

On November 1 Sasha and I decided to have a family dinner in honor of the anniversary of our move to England. Sasha came home and didn’t even stop by to see Ahmed [Zakaev], the way he usually does. He went upstairs, checked some information on the internet, and then we had dinner together.

This is a very interesting version of events. Supposedly Litvinenko did talk to Zakaev (the Chechen leader in exile) since he got a ride home with him from his meetings in London. Did he stay over? No, but he definitely talked to him on the ride home. Or did he? And why go out of the way to mention this, except that it would be out of character for Litvinenko to not end his days meeting with Zakaev? Why is she bringing this point up?

And Litvinenko seems to be trying to dismiss his illness to his wife, even after a night of throwing up:

For a little while he looked a bit better, but he didn’t stop throwing up. It was so strange. And he kept trying to make jokes about it. He would come back from the bathroom and say, “Marina, something’s wrong, this is so weird. They’ve just dunked me in the toilet.” Can you imagine?

Once in the hospital the Litvinenkos kept thinking about why this was happening, and occassionally Alexander would mention the Millenium Hotel meeting. But around his wife he would then try and change the subject:

Those two meetings on November 1 that are being talked about so much now, he thought they were kind of strange. Strange because the meeting with Mario [Scaramella, an Italian businessman with whom Alexander Litvinenko met in a sushi bar on November 1] was absolutely inexplicable. Why? Sasha said that Mario had gotten everything he gave him through the internet. So Mario could have sent it all to Sasha by email. Sasha said that Mario was acting oddly, like he was really nervous and confused. The second meeting, with Lugovoi and Kovtun (Russian businessmen Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, whom Litvinenko met in the bar of London’s Millennium Mayfair hotel), immediately struck him as suspicious, but for some reason he chased his suspicions away. I don’t know why. He kept trying to find explanations… Maybe he thought that he would figure it out by himself later and didn’t want to discuss it with me.

We all know Scaramella is a very strange person in this mystery, and easily someone to keep an eye on. But the first thing that jumped out at me was the fact Litvinenko seemed in denial regarding the meeting at the Millenium Hotel. Note that it appears the reporter added the information that this was in the Pine Bar. But chronologically it seems this meeting was after the Scaramella meeting. If there were two meetings with Lugovoi and Kovtun then it is possible Litvinenko was trying to shield his wife from the work he was engaged in. Who knows. But it is interesting when the meeting comes up he continues to be in some kind of denial. Then there is the mystery man who shows up at this business meeting (which I doubt was held in the crowded bar right before the big game)

Kommersant: At that second meeting, the conversation was about the beginning of some kind of joint venture, some kind of business?

Yes. As I understood it, many Russians open businesses in England, and British people have questions for them – who are they, are they really who they say they are. They needed to check some information.

Kommersant: So the conversation was about some kind of consulting?

Absolutely, yes.

Kommersant: And they wanted to work together on it?

As I understood it, yes. I know Lugovoi. Kovtun appeared on the scene about a month before all this happened. I hadn’t heard anything about him before. Sasha did say one thing – that some guy he really didn’t like had turned up with Lugovoi. I can’t say for sure what we were talking about the time, but that was the phrase Sasha used. He said that he hadn’t liked the man because he had said something about how he doesn’t give a damn about anything in life except money.

This is very strange indeed. Sokolenko was with his family when he supposedly ran into the three men at the Pine Bar, so I doubt in the brief contact he had on the way to the game this kind of impression would be left. But again, if there was an earlier meeting and another person showed up, then that would be a different story.

And we can put to rest the notion Lugovoi was not associated with Berezovsky. Not only did Marina know Lugovoi for a long time, she met him once at an event I am sure only close associates of Berezvosky would be attending:

Lugovoi called once on my mobile after Sasha’s death. He left a voicemail saying, “Marina, this is Andrei Lugovoi. Everything that happened strikes me as very strange. I’ll do everything I can to figure it out.” I met Andrei only once, at a birthday party for Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky].

So Lugovoi not only meets with Berezovsky, he attends his parties as well.

But then things get really bizarre. Litvinenko had two poisonous elements in his ssytem – Thallium and Polonium.

So first the diagnosis was thallium, and then polonium?

Yes. His thallium level was three times higher than normal. And polonium… Sasha was checked for radiation, but it turned out later that the machine they had used only checked for gamma radiation coming off the skin. He had alpha radiation, which has a short wavelength [though not as short as that of gamma rays], and it was internal. That kind of radiation only showed up on a special and very complicated urine test.

Thallium is another by-product of Polonium manufacturing from Bismuth:

Subsequently it was reported that traces of thallium are commonly found with polonium: “A tiny amount of thallium, a common impurity in polonium and a poison in its own right, was also found (in Litvinenko’s body fluids). Polonium is typically made by bombarding bismuth-209, a heavy metal similar to antimony, with neutrons to make bismuth-210, which rapidly decays into polonium-210. But bismuth can also decay into thallium-206 — which is why polonium might have traces of thallium as well.”[17] But 206Tl has a very short half life of minutes so it is unlikely that any would have been present by the time is was brought into the UK. It is more likely that stable lead would be found as an impurity in the polonium used.

Well clearly something is not right given this Wikipedia entry and what was seen in Litvinenko’s pathology. The Thallium was showing up days after the poisoning and weeks after entry into the country. This is truly a complexing set of facts. I cannot find Thallium in Polonium decay process that doesn’t last more than a minute and a half. So was this stable Thallium mixed in?

I also find the fact that Litvinenko’s burns showed up in his mucus membranes all over his body a telling clue which indicates to me he inhaled the material as well as ingested it:

Later I was told that not only the mucus membranes in his mouth, but everywhere in his body were horribly inflamed and covered with blisters.

I am sure those with a medical background who read this blog will correct me, but it would seem Litvinenko ran into a cloud of this stuff when he was poisoned. This would explain the cigarette theories which were very prevelant in early reporting. I would expect to see inflammation in all the sweat ducts and eyes if the material was flushing through the bodily fluids, not just the mucus membranes. If I am right, it would seem difficult for this to be a poisoning. And the lack of poisoning to Litvinenko’s family, given days of throwing up before going to the hospital, would seem to also be inconsistent:

Kommersant: Were you tested?

The next day. And we already have the results, with documents certifying that Tolya, Sasha’s father, and other people who were close to him suffered no significant contamination. I am carrying a definite dose of polonium, but for the moment it’s not life-threatening. I can’t feel anything at all. They told me that my risk of getting sick is maybe one percent higher than normal.

I would assume that dealing with his illness the way it was he should have contaminated the place quite a lot. Then there is another aspect of this entire event which I felt was they key problem – the deliberate and overt PR campaign surrounding his illness:

When he told me that he wanted there to be a letter and a photograph, I was appalled. I definitely didn’t want him to be photographed in that state. I said, “Sasha, think about it, you’ll get well and then you’ll have to see these photographs.”

But he wanted to be photographed?

He was certain that both a written document and a photograph were necessary. And now I understand that it was only when the photograph appeared that everyone figured out that something terrible was going on.

This is where the story is inconsistent. Marina says they believed he would survive this ordeal. But clearly the picture and letter were designed to be released after his death. So it seems Litvinenko continued to hide his situation from his wife as he had done for years, not telling her what he was into and what was happening. The PR firm was brought in by Berezovsky, as was Goldfarb. Litvinenko and Berezovsky must have spent precious final moments of Litvinenko’s life planning the whole thing out – the PR campaign, the interviews, the timing.

42 responses so far

42 Responses to “Marina Litvinenko Speaks Out”

  1. Molon Labe says:


    I imagine a thallium test would be a chemical test. There is no chemical difference between the isotopes (Tl-206, Tl-208 etc) of thallium. But if the Tl-206 is coming from Bi-210…it is present in vanishignly small amounts I think would be undetectable.

    I suppose they might use a mass spectrometer with the intent of looking for the naturally occurring isotopes of thallium (Tl-203 and Tl-205), thereby missing the 206.

    “It would seem the Bismuth-Polonium nature of the material is why the trail is being easily detected once traces are found. ”

    I think there is definitely some proxy being used. I cannot imagine how they can be so confident in identifying contaminated locations unless there are some accompanying markers. Anyplace someone has smoked a cigarette will be “contaminated” with Po-210 to some degree. And the proxy is not necessarily Bi-210 or Tl-206, since these two isotopes are part of the natural decay chain of U-238. That is, they would be present from natural radiation sources for the same reason Po-210 is found naturally.

    The simple fact is you will find Po-210 whereever you look. This is because uranium is naturally present in virtually all soils at a level of about 1 ppm.

  2. lostinthedrift says:

    Just found this case – the Brazilian Golania accident, where two guys got hold of a metal that they didn’t know what it was – turned out it was Cesium-137. Four people died in this incident, but not the guys who found it:

    They note that some people received very high doses and survived, and one of the hypothesis is that these people were exposed to doses several times, which upregulated their repair machinery, enabling them to survive, while one sudden dose (such as in this case a 6 yo girl eating on the same spot where Cs dust had been spilled) is more likely to kill.