Dec 04 2006

The New Litvinenko Timeline

Update:More reporting on the fact that Russia’s sole Polonium-210 reactor has been idle for two years and a review of stocks and transports of nuclear material in Russia show no missing material.

Major Update: Breaking news says the hunt is on for more contamination sites in hotels. I was about to predict this (and should have) when compiling this post. If we have a smuggling ring that Lugovoi coordinates (he has been to London 12-13 times in the last year meeting with Litvinenko and possibly Berezovsky some number of times) then we would expect to see these hot spots in hotels where the material was being divided and distributed. This would probably put the nail in the assassination theories if more hotel sites were identified as hot spots and we find Litvinenko and Lugovoi associated with these spots. – end update

It is clear the Polonium trail spans several days from Oct 25th to Nov 3rd (which appears to be traces of Polonium coming into Russia and then traces outbound with Lugovoi). And there appears to be locations Litvinenko did not visit which were contaminated (the Hotel Rooms at the Sheraton Park). And there seems to be two hot spot hotels and numerous men ferrying between Russia and London associated with these hot spots. One would almost say there was a smuggling ring, and one would have to realize that the smuggling may have been intended to be INTO Russia to establish enough Polonium-210 for Chechen terrorists there. One thing is for sure, the amount of Polonium 210 we are seeing in Litvinenko and Scaramella alone is probably on the order of $50+ million dollars worth of material, and I would not be surprised if the total traces found could add up to twice that amount. With that much valuable material in play, anything is possible.

So Let’s look at the new Timeline as reporting in the last few days has attempted to lay it out.

October 25th – 28th: First is the earliest confirmed contamination at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel,plus contamination possibly on flights coming from or going to Moscow:

…Mr Lugovoi says he returned to London on a BA flight on October 25. He again met Mr Litvinenko at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel. He returned to Moscow on October 28,…

It seems the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel is one of these major hot spots:

Police have also linked Mr Lugovoi to several locations across London which tested positive for polonium 210.

He visited the offices of security firm Erinys on October 16. They tested positive.

He is believed to have stayed at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel. The eighth floor was sealed off last week after it tested positive.

It is rumored that s many five rooms were contaminated as much of the 8th floor was cordoned off:

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.

Lugovoi and Litvinenko had many meetings during this trip (per the last link), according to Lugovoi:

“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.”

If this was a smuggling effort which was being coordinated by Lugovoi for Berezovsky and others, and Berezovsky used Litvinenko as a messenger and mule for most contacts with Lugovoi then this could be an earlier transaction to move Polonium-210. The key here is the five rooms. There is no need to have that much movement of a material you are trying to keep secret for an assassination. I cannot see Lugovoi going from room to room showing off his secret assassin’s weapon. But I can envision a shipment of Polonium-210 being split apart so it could travel in smaller amounts to where it was suppose to go (it could be going to multiple ‘customers’). Update: Reader Crosspatch (who knows his chemistry for sure) notes that it is possible this was a location to combine small amounts being smuggled by many people as well. Point taken. – end update. One thing is for sure, if Lugovoi wanted to kill Berezovsky and Litvinenko, he had an opportunity during this trip which he would not have again when he came in for the Arsenal – CSKA Moscow soccer game on November 1.

There is some confusion as to when Lugovoi met with Berezovsky, but it seems he may have been the initial person leaving traces of Polonium-210 around London – not Litvinenko. Per the last link again:

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.”

I am sure many people sat on that couch, including Litvinenko. Berezovsky’s office still remains a key element of this puzzle. Recall the Goldfarb has already confirmed Litvinenko visited the office, supposedly after the meeting with Scaramella. It seems many of the new people of interest are associated with the Sheraton Park and this initial period of contamination.

October 31st – November 1st: This is the period we all focused our attention on up until recently because of the remnants of the assassination theory which began when Thallium was the suspected poison. While many continue to follow that line of thinking, the dual contamination sites (and the shear amount and expense of the Polonium in question) seems to continuously erode that theory. But it is still hanging on and cannot be dismissed. During this period we get our second hotspot, and it is also in a hotel where Lugovoi is staying:

…[Lugovoi] flew to London three days later with his wife and son to watch the Arsenal-CSKA Moscow match on November 1. They stayed at the Millennium Hotel, opposite the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, and met Mr Litvinenko there again on November 1. They returned to Moscow along with several Russian acquaintances on November 3.

And again Litvinenko seems to be ‘checking in’ on Lugovoi while he slides in a last minute request for a meeting with Scaramella:

ON the morning of November 1 Litvinenko was given a lift into the centre of London by car. No trace of polonium has been found in that vehicle — an indicator that Litvinenko had not yet been poisoned.

Given the high radiation he suffered, he would have fallen ill rapidly. “It would have been within hours, a day at most,” said a source at the HPA. It was the evening of November 1 that he first became sick.

His movements that day are the subject of dispute. According to Oleg Gordievsky, a friend of the victim and former KGB officer, Litvinenko met Lugovoi and Kovtun in the morning.
Lugovoi and Kovtun, however, say this is not so: they met in the afternoon.

“In the morning my family went off on a London tour,” said Lugovoi. “Dimitri and I went to a business meeting. I had spoken to Litvinenko and we had agreed to meet that day. He told me that he was first seeing an Italian acquaintance.”

Again we see conflicts as to when Litvinenko met Lugovoi and when either or both met Berezovsky. It is important to note Litvinenko spent hours retracing his steps that fateful day. And cell phone records and CCTV cameras will have outlined much of his movements. And it seems evidence shows Litvinenko visited and contaminated Berezovsky’s office – and note the confirming witness present:

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.

The Millenium hotel, as I mentioned, was the second hot spot found. What is interesting is we find these hot spots in Hotels which cater or are hosting a lot of Russians at the time of the contamination. Again this looks more like a smuggling effort to divide up a Polonium shipment amongst multiple folks. So did Litvinenko meet Lugovoi before he met Scaramella and that is when the ‘spill’ happened in the Millenium Hotel room? There was not enough time after the Scaramella meeting (ended around 3:45 PM) to go to Berezovsky’s office and then be at the Millenium hotel at 4:30.

Add to this one more important fact – apparently Russia stopped producing Polonium-210 two years ago and there is no missing Polonium-210 from their stocks presumably (which would be recorded and monitored by the IAEA). So we need to re-assess which path the Polonium-210 was transversing. Was it coming from Russia or going into Russia? And we should never forget Polonium-210’s use in crude nuclear bomb triggers. It is therefore considered a key element to a nuclear bomb. One of the few which needs to constantly be replaced given its short 138 day half life.

73 responses so far

73 Responses to “The New Litvinenko Timeline”

  1. clarice says:

    “The sheer difficulty of acquiring polonium 210 has though, for now, shifted the spotlight on to state-sponsored scientists working in Russian research laboratories and the country’s massive nuclear reprocessing plants. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), obtaining the material would require a level of access unthinkable only the most well-connected of individuals – just possibly with state backing.

    A United Nations expert in the trade of nuclear materials said the sophistication required to harness polonium’s poison as a murder weapon meant it could not have been executed by a ‘lone assassin’, a madman with a grudge to take out. Such is the difficulty of obtaining radioactive material, it would have to be someone with skill and powerful connections.

    And, whoever they are, they collected enough extremely rare radioactive material to ensure doctors discovered a ‘major dose’ in the frail, sallow body of Litvinenko. Such material, it is believed by experts, could only have come from the massive nuclear structures of the old Soviet Union where, during the collapse of the empire, security was often sacrificed. Polonium can only be gained from such reprocessing plants or equally complex nuclear research plants. You cannot buy this stuff from local criminals.

    The UN is expected to begin investigating which of the nuclear reprocessing plants the polonium 210 that destroyed the internal organs of the Russian exile may have come from.

    First up, will be the principal plant in Krasnoyarsk, 600km east of Tomsk, a massive, remote structure notorious for the radioactive contamination of Siberia’s major rivers. Although UN officials remain sceptical the material may have been procured on the black market, British police are though to be liaising with the IAEA on whether the rare isotope may have originated on Russia’s flourishing underground trade in nuclear and radioactive sources.

    After all, on several occasions in the past 15 years, Russian police have intercepted smugglers trying to carry the alpha-radiation emitting substance out of the former Soviet Union. In 1999 an army officer was caught trying to cross from Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan clutching a glass capsule marked ‘RA 23-54’ and a metal canister covered with lead foil. Under interrogation, he admitted it contained a radioactive mixture of polonium and beryllium, used in Russia to trigger nuclear chain reactions. He had stolen the material from the Baikonur cosmodrome, where he worked, and intended to sell it in Uzbekistan. Other cases involve the theft of several canisters of polonium 210 from a secretive research centre in the city of Sarov called the All Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, a sprawling complex known as Russia’s Los Alamos.

    Beyond rows of barbed wire and troop patrols, experts have admitted polonium isotopes are still produced there. Disturbing reports of thefts from the site continue to surface. In 1993 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported that 10kg of polonium had gone missing from the plant. Two years ago the IAEA established that Iran has been conducting experiments with polonium 210 as part of its nuclear programme, possibly using material obtained from Russia.”,,1957466,00.html

  2. AJStrata says:


    Are you jumping on the smuggling bandwagon?

    Thanks for all the great links!


  3. crosspatch says:

    I think that article is typical of “old thinking” and not taking Iranian production into account. Iran might be quite willing to sell the stuff on the black market too in order to get hard currency … or even North Korea could be making the stuff.

  4. Weight of Glory says:

    I should add that the website I linked to is unknown to me, so I don’t know how reliable it is. It was just something that addressed the production of Polonium in Iran.

  5. crosspatch says:

    “In 1993 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported that 10kg of polonium had gone missing from the plant. Two years ago the IAEA established that Iran has been conducting experiments with polonium 210 as part of its nuclear programme, possibly using material obtained from Russia.”

    Polonium stolen in 1993 would be dead now. Well, lets see … in 1997 there would be 10 grams left. In 2001 there would be 100 miligrams left and in 2005 there would be 100 micrograms left. In other words, it loses a factor of 1000 every 4 years (actually a little less than that, 1024 times less material every 3.8 years) so that 10 kilos would be about the dose that Litvinenko ingested now.

    Also the article is probably correct when it says Iran probably did research with material obtained from Russia two years ago, but it has since been making it themselves … at least according to John Bolton when he worked at the State Dept.

  6. jerry says:

    AJ, I’m still liking the smuggling angle — though I’d be in the “smuggling-assassinate Sasha” faction, not in the “smuggling-self-contaminated Sasha” group yet. Can’t decide about BorisB, would he bomb Russians?

  7. clarice says:

    I’m with Jerry-and I don’t see Berozovsky in on this. You’re welcome for the links.

    I’m not even sure Lugovoi knowingly transported this. He may be right when he says he was framed. Let’s say someone was using a secret compartment in his luggage to transport this..ot sprinkled the stuff on his clothing and in his room .

    As for the assassination, I still am agnostic about the dosage:Were they bunglers who didn’t know what they were doing or did they want to send a message?

    I still think Scaramella is clean.

  8. crosspatch says:

    “sprinkled the stuff on his clothing and in his room”

    That would say they knew it would be detected which goes against the poison being used because it wouldn’t be detected. If they knew it would be detected if they used polonium and if polonium is so dangerous to the assassin himself, why not use something much safer that would probably not be detected such as would be developed in their poison lab? Just doesn’t make sense.

    Why have a poison lab if you aren’t going to use it when it comes time to poison people? I am sure ricin can be obtained easier than polonium.

    Did Scaramella ever meet with Lugovoi?

  9. clarice says:

    There’s no indication Scaramella met with Lugovoi.
    They could have sprinkled it and framed Lugovoi as an insurance measure just in case it was traced..

    I don’t think the source was Iran. So far all the evidence points to Russia.

  10. crosspatch says:

    “So far all the evidence points to Russia”

    Can you fill me in on that evidence? I haven’t seen any yet.

  11. crosspatch says:

    I see Lugovoi as being practically the polonium fairy sprinkling polonium contamination practically everywhere he goes. He is contaminated in Moscow and he is contaminated in London. He leaves a trail of polonium nearly everywhere he goes (except, apparently, to the football game). The guy is Mister Polonium. But I don’t know enough to say in which direction the polonium he is carrying is travelling.

    I also see polonium contamination on everyone associated with Litvinenko, even people who have not met with Lugovoi. So we apparently have another Mister Polonium, only this one died from a massive overdose.

    No evidence is seen of polonium contamination on Litvinenko early in the day but that doesn’t mean much because Lugovoi has also been to places and left no contamination at various times in the past too. It doesn’t mean Litvinenko wasn’t contaminated the week before or even the day before, just means he wasn’t contaminated that morning.

    Judging from the amount of contamination (five hotel rooms?) it would certainly appear on the surface barring more detailed information that this hotel might have been used on previous trips and contaminated during the course of whatever it is he does with his polonium.

    Maybe it is Russian polonium. But I really see way too much contamination of way too long of a time period to see this as any government directed hit.

  12. clarice says:

    The planes and see the guardian article stuff (above post).Consistent reports re the “fingerprints” of this stuff has indicated the Brits have identified a specific plant in Russia as the source of production.

  13. crosspatch says:

    I have also seen reports that the polonium came from China. Also, the reports of a particular plant in Russia have not been confirmed. They are from one “anonymous source” from the Evening Standard that everyone else has been repeating. Actually, I have heard two plants in Russia being mentioned as sources. One was the plant that actually did make polonium and the other was a power plant that according to the Russians never made any.

    Okay, fine, say it is Russian polonium. It still wasn’t an assassination. How does an assassin manage to contaminate 5 rooms in a hotel? Not to mention other hotels, three airplanes, business places, etc. This guy is a walking cloud of polonium.

    Now in order to support the assassination theory we have to have someone sprinkling polonium all over the place to throw people off the trail? Uhm, who are you going to get to do the sprinkling? Are you going to tell that person that as soon as they open that container they might be signing their own death warrant?

    This wasn’t an assassination, if it was murder it was more like a suicide bombing.

  14. clarice says:

    Assume –humor me–that the PO was spilled in one room and the hotel cleaning staff cleaned all five rooms at the same time with the same equipment..spreading it around.
    The Times as I recall also said the source was a Russian plant. Indeed all the reporting on sources I;ve read indicates the same thing.(Except for you and Barbara who have conjured up Iran).

  15. jerry says:

    Eh, I could imagine it being an assassination – just a very bungled one. I’d say they dropped the polonium on the hotel room floor because there were terrified, not because they did this routinely, same for the contamination – one Po trip to London, pass it around stupidly on more than one occasion, contaminate everywhere they touch, poison one guy… et voila, radiation everywhere! Think Arnold S as a polonium assassin, or Mel Gibson maybe.

  16. crosspatch says:

    Oh, and Gaidar has been released from the hospital and appears to be doing well.

  17. clarice says:

    Jerry, I think that is the most likely scenario , too.

  18. crosspatch says:

    I would buy that, Clarice, if I knew more about the nature of the contamination. If, for example, all 5 rooms were together and the contamination were spread fairly evenly throughout, sure. But if the rooms are on different floors, or not adjacent to each other, it might be harder to buy that explaination. Or if they are spot sources of contamination … it would be hard to buy. Now we have them checking two more hotels too. There are 12 contaminated locations so far. That’s way to many.

    I said Iran because they are the only country that would be increasing polonium production at a time when most other countries are stopping it. They would have it and have reason to want to get it to the west.

    There would be little black market use for polonium other than as a poison or WMD. There is little use for it anymore and any countries that would need it are making their own. Nobody uses it for triggers anymore, except maybe a terrorist, nobody uses it to power satellites anymore except China who makes their own. We don’t use it in smoke detectors anymore. The market for it is dwindling except for use as a weapon of terror.

  19. crosspatch says:

    Jerry, dropped it which time? Apparently the guy was contaminated on the 17th, the 25th, and the 1st with instances of not being contaminated in between. He dropped the polonium three times?