November 24, 2006


More polon... er, potatoes?
From The Anatolian Times:
Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by radioactive polonium, a source at the London hospital where he was treated told AFP Friday.
The bastards got him. I'll have more to say about this later.
The apparent assassination in London of former FSB (Russia’s national security service) officer Alexander Litvinenko is widely thought to have been ordered by Russian President Putin, an old time spook from the KGB days and carried out by the FSB. Even Litvinenko himself accused Putin as he lay dying.

I'm not so sure. I'd be more inclined to suspect Putin's involvement with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the circumstances of which Litvinenko was investigating at the time he was poisoned. The old KGB liked to shoot their problems, and if they did use poison it was usually fast acting, like cyanide.

In the good old days, KGB heavies would use a car to follow a pedestrian, grinding along behind the object of their surveillance in low gear. Spotting one at a trade show required only a rudimentary knowledge of Rooski tailoring and a nose for alcohol. When they wanted to off someone, it was usually with a bullet or two to the head. It seemed natural.

If the KGB needed to make a hit look like it wasn't murder, however, they would sometimes resort to poison. Ever seen an amyl nitrite popper? Imagine one filled instead with purified hydrogen cyanide. The assassin merely holds the fragile glass poison popper inside a folded newspaper. When the target is close by, the operative takes a deep breath, squeezes the newspaper to break the popper, then wafts the resulting cyanide gas toward the victim's head. Death is very fast. The volatile cyanide quickly disperses; the death looks like a heart attack, blue lips and all.

But this business of poisoning enemies with slow-acting toxins, allowing them to linger long enough to accuse you, seems most un-KGB-like to me. The KGB technical staff was likely involved in the Bulgarian secret police's 1978 murder of dissident Georgi Markov in London. You remember the poison pellet shooting umbrella, no? The poison in that case was ricin, a castor bean derived toxin, and it was injected under the skin by a tiny pellet the size of a ball-point pen roller. I think the Bulgarians are the ones who wanted Markov's death to appear to be from natural causes and pressured the KGB into supplying the poison umbrella.

Poor old Markov suffered exquisitely as the ricin destroyed his vitals, but the poison pellet was found. Modern technology or not, projectiles show up in the victim. The Church Committee orgy of self-hate revealed that the US had similar silent, electrostatically powered non-discernible micro inoculators, but they were just for neutralizing sentry dogs, right?

M1 Dart Guns
Another poisoning that gets blamed on the KGB's heirs and assigns is that of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. He survived a dose of dioxin, but suffered permanent effects. Now why would they poison this man and then let him recover? Just to see him suffer? No, suffering doesn't move them. To make a martyr of him? They aren't that stupid at the FSB.

Why would they allow Litvinenko, someone they ostensibly wanted to silence, to stick around, shooting off his mouth, making accusations and looking pathetic? I think Litvinenko's murderers wanted to see him point his finger at Putin as he died.
Don't confuse the umbrella gun with the similarly named band, the Non-Discernable Micro Bio Inoculators.
Updated: Kim Priestap at Wizbang weighs in with details and links. Seems polonium poisoning can actually spread from person to person via bodily fluids. A sloppy way to murder, if you ask me.
Addendum: For a literary treatment of polonium poisoning, see Frederick Forsyth's The Fourth Protocol. The book was published in 1984. It was made into a movie starring Michael Caine in 1987. Hat tip: Fox TV News.

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