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December 12, 2006

Polonium Poisoning Updates

Key witness disappears:

A key witness in Litvinenko case, Andrey Limarev, has disappeared from his home in the French Alps, the Echo of Moscow Radio reported citing a statement of News Ru. Limarev is a former Federal Security Service agent and a colleague of Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned recently in London. Some time ago, Limarev accused a former agent of the Federal Security Service, of Litvinenko’s death. Limarev told the British press that he would be the next victim. A day later, he went missing.

About Polonium itself.

Whoever the assassin was, he or she had some method of concealing the poison (no doubt in some ingenious James Bond-type device) before it was given to Litvinenko. The hidden poison would be undetectable because this isotope emits almost no telltale gamma rays. However, polonium has a tendency to leak from containers. This probably explains why traces have been found in five airliners, particularly those used for flights to Moscow. (Passengers in those aircraft were not at risk.)

Where Litvinenko was poisoned is still not known. But wherever he went after he was poisoned, he left traces of polonium, including his home in the north London suburb of Muswell Hill, a sushi restaurant near Piccadilly Circus where he dined with a friend, a luxury hotel where he met two unidentified Russians, and the home of Russian billionaire exile Boris Berezovsky. His room in the hospital was the most contaminated.

It's expected that a victim of the poison will sweat it out and leave bits of it behind in his sweat, spit, and fingerprints, so it's not surprising the trail "leads" to Berezovsky. It doesn't lead back to him, it leads to him, as Litvinenko had contacts with him.

Germany may charge Kotvun, not with murder (for now) but for "improperly handling radioactive materials," which seems a much easier case to make, given that the poison is all over his ex-wife's apartment, where he stayed before coming to the UK. A New York Times article is worth the click.

A backgrounder on the other suspect, Lugovoy, ex-high-ranking KGB officer and millionaire Russian businessman.

Meanwhile, the air has a Cold War nip to it, as Russia now demands Shell give up its $20 billion majority stake in a the world's biggest liquified gas project:

Shell is being forced by the Russian government to hand over its controlling stake in the world's biggest liquefied gas project, provoking fresh fears about the Kremlin's willingness to use the country's growing strength in natural resources as a political weapon.

After months of relentless pressure from Moscow, the Anglo-Dutch company has to cut its stake in the $20bn Sakhalin-2 scheme in the far east of Russia in favour of the state-owned energy group Gazprom.

The Russian authorities are also threatening BP over alleged environmental violations on a Siberian field in what is seen as a wider attempt to seize back assets handed over to foreign companies when energy prices were low.

Meet the new bear, same as the old bear.

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posted by Ace at 11:54 AM

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