Alexander Litvinenko was a young FSB operative, focused for many years upon organized crime. What he eventually discovered was that organized crime was pervasive, not only on the streets but in police departments and even within his own agency.
“I was so naive,” Litvinenko would later tell Goldfarb. “I thought that since they were the big bosses, they would take care of it and stop the mayhem in the services. Not in the least. Every time the threads led high enough, it turned out that the person involved was somebody’s buddy or relative or comrade in arms. The only thing I achieved is a certain reputation: the village idiot… the whole system was rotten to the core.”
To say that he became disillusioned would be to understate the case. Haunted by betrayal, he went public, understandably angering his boss, the new head of FSB: one Vladimir Putin. Putin denounced him, then hounded him with arrests and jailings.
“In the KGB code, the punishment for traitors is you could be killed,” explains Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian. “And that’s how Putin regarded him. As a traitor.”
By now, Litvinenko knew he had to escape, and in October 2000, he fled to Turkey. From there, with the help of Berezovsky and Goldfarb, he landed in London shortly afterwards.
Six years later, he made the mistake of drinking tea with two Russian friends in London's Millenium Hotel, in their quiet bar. Subequently, it was found to have been sprayed with polonium 210. And that means that whoever killed him had to have access to a nuclear reactor.
The effects of polonium 210 are described in detail, together with the British search for the source and an abbreviated history of Russia's lengthy love affair with largely untraceable poisons and their associated delivery mechanisms. It's a half-hour read, but well worth the time. And given Pooty-Poot's disdain for traitors, you may ponder the future of one Edward Snowden, once his usefulness is determined to have been exhausted.