May 30 2007

Berezovsky Tries To Pre-empt Lugovoi’s Sensational News Conference

Major Update: The Independent article on Berezovsky’s latest claims is finally accessible, and there are some really interesting details regarding how close Lugovoi and Berezovsky were – giving some strange credence to Lugovoi’s claims about Berezovsky and Litvinenko:

Mr Berezovsky shed light on his relationship with the former FSB agent Andrei Lugovoy just before the Russian prosecutor general’s office announced that swapping the two men for trial had been ruled out.

Speaking at the Miller Academy on Tuesday night, Mr Berezovsky said that he had known Mr Lugovoy, his former bodyguard, “for a long time”, and trusted him.

I told him there was a polonium trail all over Europe, including in my office, and that he had to explain it.

“I got no answer” from Mr Lugovoy, said Mr Berezovsky, adding that “all the steps of Lugovoy just confirm that he is behind” the poisoning. But he said that he still felt uneasy about Mr Lugovoy’s role in the killing, as the former agent had previously protected Mr Berezovsky and his family in Russia, as well as the former pro-reform prime minister Yegor Gaidar.

“Even now I have a strange impression,” said Mr Berezovsky, who did not give further details but hinted that Mr Lugovoy may have been coerced into the murder. He pointed out that the former agent had been imprisoned in 2001 after attempting to spring from jail an associate of Mr Berezovsky, the former deputy director of Aeroflot Nikolai Glushkov, who had been imprisoned for fraud.

Mr Berezovsky argued that on the contrary, thanks to his efforts, the West was now more aware of the “real danger” posed by President Putin. “In 2001, only 10 per cent thought he was dangerous in the West. Now it is 90 per cent,” Mr Berezovsky said, adding that he feared for his own safety following Mr Litvinenko’s death.

Berezovsky is hard to believe in all this. He had his PR firm at the ready when Litvinenko lay dying. Instead of laying out a claim against Putin while Litvinenko was still alive and could add his own (granted weakened) voice to the charges, the PR firm waited until after Litvinenko died to go public with a slick PR effort. And Berezovsky has called for the overthrow of Putin and associated with enemies of western democracy. Berezovsky put Putin in power and had to flee when his puppet broke his strings and went after the Oligarchs who plundered the country’s riches. Call me doubtful that this man is trying to protect the West.
– end update

The game is afoot, my Dr Watsons! Lugovoi is going to spill some serious news to the public tomorrow regarding Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko and Polonium 210. Lugovoi deliberately let the news of his pending sensational news sit out there for an entire week after word came of charges against him for the murder of Litvinenko. I suspected this might be a pressure play to get someone in the UK to blink, panic and make a dumb pre-emptive move. If I am right, Berezovsky may have just blinked.

The Independent put out a story about Lugovoi being blackmailed to kill Litvinenko, but their site went down and has been down for 2 hours (they have been posting a generic page that claims they are doing maintenance and will be up in 30 minutes). This is all we have from a Google snippet:

Lugovoy ‘blackmailed to murder Litvinenko’
Independent, UK – 3 hours ago
Boris Berezovsky has disclosed details of a dramatic telephone call following the death of Alexander Litvinenko in which the exiled tycoon pleaded with the …

That’s it – this frustratingly brief snippet. What is clear is the claim is coming from Berezovsky. Is this a foreshadowing of Lugovoi’s presser tomorrow? Doubtful. The blackmail would be coming from Putin if Berezovsky is peddling a story, and Lugovoi targeted his news to be about Russians living in England. Clearly something is happening. Something important. Did Berezovsky try one last time to spin the news and accidentally uncover some details he shouldn’t have? Who knows. More if the story comes back up or when Lugovoi holds his press conference. But whatever Berezovsky was trying to do it failed to a downed server (or something).

Update: Finally we have some secondary reporting coming out on what is supposed to be in The Independent’s article (8 hours after the story came out, 7 hours of problems of gaining access):

Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky urged the man British authorities want to charge over the death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko to talk to police here, a report said Thursday.

Berezovsky also hinted that Andrei Lugovoi, his former bodyguard, may have been coerced into killing Kremlin opponent Litvinenko, though did not elaborate, the Independent newspaper said.
Lugovoi called Berezovsky following his employee Litvinenko’s death by poisoning from the radioactive isotope polonium 210 last November, the businessman said in a London speech reported by the paper.

“I told him, if you are not guilty, you should come to this country — go to Heathrow and talk to Scotland Yard,” the paper quoted Berezovsky as saying.

“There is no chance you will go to jail if you are not guilty.

“I told him there was a polonium trail all over Europe, including in my office, and that he had to explain it.”

Litvinenko died on Nov 23rd, 2006. My first post on the matter was November 25th. My first post on the possible Berezovsky connection was Nov 26th. My post predicting Berezovsky’s office would be on the Po-210 trail, and then updates which showed the confirmation of that prediction, was on Nov 27th. So sometime in the first week of the breaking news (but not the first week of the investigation, since police interviewed Litvinenko regarding his whereabouts prior to his death) Boris was calling Lugovoi to discuss how to explain the Po-210 trail? Why would Berezovsky be discussing an explanation of the Po-210 trail so early on with Lugovoi? Was it to pre-empt the news the trail led to Berezovsky? His office was closed down Nov 27th – so if the call was before then I would be suspect he was discussing an alibi. And how would he know Po-210 was all over Europe, when at that time it was limited to a small section of London? Did Berezovsky just try to spin a phone conversation he suspected Lugovoi was going to mention in his press conference today?

Berezovsky has been very confident he can guide the outcome of this story simply by feeding stories and hints to the UK Media. It is the same basic method he used when he owned a Russian news company and helped get his now-adversary Putin elected to his first term. It was Berezovsky’s early use of a PR firm (instead of a private investigative firm) that made me suspicious about all this on day one. The blackmail angle for Lugovoi’s motives seems is also a strange add-on. Was it a vain attempt to hint to Lugovoi what kind of story could help both Berezovsky and Lugovoi avoid law enforcement? Truly a strange set of comments to make on he eve of Lugovoi’s supposed sensational news.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Berezovsky Tries To Pre-empt Lugovoi’s Sensational News Conference”

  1. crosspatch says:

    I have still seen nothing that invalidates my two favorite scenarios:

    I. There is a smuggling operation. There is a leak. People have been contaminated and need medical attention. Boris makes the decision to sacrifice Litvinenko because A: he is becoming a major pain in the rear end and B: it is at least somewhat plausible that someone other than Boris would want him dead. The others could then seek medical attention under the guise of cross-contamination from the Litvinenko murder.

    II. Boris has two amateurs in the handling of polonium knock off Litvinenko because he has become a major pain in the rear end. The source is likely a satellite power generator or KGB mercury assassination device (polonium to heat mercury to cause mercury poisoning to the target) obtained on the black market or through back channels and would explain the high mercury content found in Russia where the unit would have been disassembled in order to get to the polonium.

  2. crosspatch says:

    Doesn’t appear to be much of a “blockbuster” according to the Herald Tribune:

    MOSCOW: Andrei Lugovoi, named as a suspect in the killing of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London, said Thursday that Britain tried to recruit him to provide intelligence.

    British special services “asked me to collect compromising information on President Putin,” Lugovoi said at a news conference, according to a translation by the Russia Today television channel.