A Wilderness of Mirrors: Litvinenko, Putin, and the West

The death of exiled former FSB (the domestic-security successor to the KGB) officer Aleksandr Litvinenko in London last November momentarily relegated Britney and K-Fed, Oprah, and Madonna to the second pages of Western tabloids.  It also sparked a frenzy of speculation about who stands behind the apparent murder—or “murders,” since talk of political assassination was already in the air, East and West, following the October shooting of anti-Kremlin journalist Anna Politkovskaya.  Add to that the mysterious illness of former (albeit “acting”) Premier Yegor Gaydar in Dublin shortly following Litvinenko’s death (was it related to Mr. Gaydar’s diabetes or a poisoning?), and the fictional antics of Fu Manchu, Dr. No, Blofeld, and Professor Moriarty may not seem as far-fetched as they once did.

Every interested Russian has at least one pet versiya explaining the bizarre poisoning of Litvinenko by a radioactive isotope (Polonium 210), and bloggers around the globe have punched out countless words reconstructing Litvinenko’s movements on the fateful day, November 1, when he met with two Russians (both former KGB officers) at the Millennium Hotel, and at a popular London sushi bar with Mario Scaramella, a shady Italian “expert” on everything from nuclear energy to Soviet/Russian intelligence operations, who was also contaminated by Polonium 210 (as was Litvinenko’s...

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