The fallout from the conduct and conclusions of the Litvinenko Inquiry

File Photo of British Parliament Building, Big Ben, Thames, adapted from image at

Subject: The fallout from the conduct and conclusions of the Litvinenko Inquiry
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2016 21:43:05 +0100
From: Julia Svetlichnaja (

Below is my Open letter to the Home Secretary and other parliamentarians regarding the findings of the Litvinenko Enquiry. It has not been published as I was awaiting, to no avail, some response so that it could be published together. It is clear that the pronounced narrative has been comfortably digested and neither the mainstream media nor the general public in the UK have any further questions. Nevertheless, not everyone, Ken Livingstone, for example, is entirely convinced. Hence, the publication of the letter might incline a few to think twice. The letter is below shall you wish to publish it.

Dr Julia Svetlichnaja

From: JVS<>
Date: 20 February 2016
Subject: The fallout from the conduct and conclusions of the Litvinenko Inquiry

Hillsleigh Road
London W8
20 February 2016

Dear Home Secretary,

The fallout from the conduct and conclusions of the Litvinenko Inquiry

write as I am concerned about the conclusions of Sir Robert Owen’s report to yourself following the Litvinenko Inquiry, which are grave and naturally greatly damaging to Anglo-Russian relations. I had expected some detailed scrutiny of the report but none has taken place.

In the month since the Litvinenko Inquiry report judged Russia’s President Putin personally responsible for nuclear terrorism on British soil, cooperation from the Russian Federation across a range of matters has been colder.

I am a Russian-born academic who has made her home in London since 1994. In the course of my academic work I met Alexander Litvinenko several times some months before his death in 2006. I was later, in 2014, asked by the Metropolitan Police (SO15 branch) to appear as a witness to the Litvinenko Inquiry.

Sir Robert Owen’s conclusions are shocking; both in their gravity and the vagueness of the evidence upon which they are based. In my view what became a “privatised” Public Inquiry was not in the public interest.

After the report was published, Mr Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London at the time of the polonium poisoning, told me on air “Until you came into the studio today, for the last ten years, I have always believed what I read in the papers – that it was authorised by the Russian president. You’re the first person to bring doubt to my mind”. Whilst some of Russia’s actions, and those of its President, are reprehensible viewed through Western eyes, the public relations campaign that has used Mr Litvinenko, casting him as a dissident author and victim of a rogue Russian state, has benefited only some wealthy fugitives from Russia in London, not the truth, nor the interests of Britain and Russia.

Alexander Litvinenko’s wife, and crucially her backers, dominated the choice of core participants and the treatment of witnesses. The Inquiry, and its chairman, allowed itself to be manipulated and, in my view, deceived into implicating Vladimir Putin directly in the radioactive poisoning of Mr Litvinenko, something which has insulted and frustrated President Putin – as it was intended to do.

Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry reduced its focus to the afternoon of 1 November 2006 where according to the judge something of a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is supposed to have taken place at the Millennium Hotel – only with a radioactive isotope, rather than a dormouse, in the teapot. In Sir Robert’s scenario the assassins, Messrs Lugavoy and Kovtun, spray Mr Litvinenko and themselves, with the polonium 210 while Lugavoy’s wife and child are popping in and out of the room.

Thus victims of the polonium 210 poisoning alongside Mr Litvinenko, Lugovoy and Koftun, were made the guilty. Mr Mario Scaramella, a main witness, who had been denied ‘core participant’ status (and thus funding) by the Inquiry, was ignored completely. Regrettably, the PR operation that had begun when Litvinenko was admitted to hospital has continued in the Inquiry.

As the Soviet dissident, Dr Zhores Medvedev, (who was expelled by the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and worked as a radiobiologist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London – now the Francis Crick Institute) and who rejects the Owen Report’s science, has written “the last few days of Litvinenko’s life seemed to be more under the supervision of a public relations operation, rather than medicine.”

Federation withdrew from the Inquiry just prior to its start in 2014, stating “This is a decision that the ICRF has reached after very careful consideration and with much regret. However, the ICRF is not willing to participate in a process where it now appears that a considerable part of the evidence, which the Inquiry will consider will be heard in closed session from which the ICRF will be excluded and unrepresented, and in relation to which considered conclusions will never be published. That is not the basis upon which the ICRF became involved in the UK’s investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s death. The ICRF has asked us to make it clear it means no disrespect towards Sir Robert or to the proceedings to date in reaching its decision not to participate in the Inquiry.” At this point the public inquiry moved to a private inquiry and ultimately to a ‘privatised’ one influenced by a narrow coterie of core participants, funded by the British taxpayer.

The misunderstandings that colour Sir Robert’s report are small compared to his manipulation by those who do not want good relations between the authorities of Britain and Russia, as they fear the justice they may yet have to face.

Firstly, Sir Robert, with the help of distraction by the counsel for Mrs Litvinenko who mainly questioned the witnesses to the Inquiry, dismisses the evidence that Mr Litvinenko was determined to use his connections with FSB officers to trade in information as I wrote in The Observer and the Daily Telegraph in 2006. This was Mr Litvinenko’s milieu, he was open about it, and believed it to be morally justified as he saw the monies held by his targets as “stolen”. He sought help quite indiscriminately, perhaps because his English was quite poor. Mr Litvinenko described his intention to me in April 2006, without preamble, to blackmail those Russians who had both a police file in Russia and money in the West. He repeatedly used the word “chantage” – “blackmail” in Russian.

Secondly, Sir Robert concludes the Russian State had a hand in the poisoning basing emphasis on his contention that Mr Litvinenko “had publicly blamed the FSB for the 1999 apartment bombings” but Sir Robert ignores the facts that these accusations relate to the Yelsin era, that the main author of the book is alive and well, and when I, as an academic studying the period, questioned Mr Litvinenko about this book, he quickly said he “didn’t write it, [Mr] Berezovsky just used my name”; a fact that the Russian authorities would be aware of. Yet Sir Robert clings to this book as key evidence of President Putin’s desire to destroy a minor and not very literate co-author working as a bodyguard, with polonium.

President Putin has a record of using judicial methods with a heavy hand, would he resort to extra-judicial ones using a radioactive isotope and causing so much real and metaphorical fallout if he wanted a cover up? By all accounts Mr Putin likes order, and polonium is chaos.

Finally Sir Robert finds “strong circumstantial evidence of Russian State responsibility” but bizarrely seems to rely on events in 2015 when, a clearly put-out, perhaps petulant, and offended Russian president “awarded Mr Lugavoy an honour for services to the fatherland”, this is clearly more President Putin cocking a snook at Sir Robert than a confession. Sir Robert’s conclusion relies on slapdash logic and, also, Russia is in fact a ‘Motherland’.

Sir Robert doesn’t like this honouring of Mr Lugavoy (he wasn’t supposed to) and he exacts his revenge, stating “Whilst it does not follow that Mr Lugovoy must have been acting on behalf of the Russian State when he killed Mr Litvinenko, the way in which President Putin has treated Mr Lugovoy is certainly consistent with that hypothesis. Moreover, President Putin’s conduct towards Mr Lugovoy suggests a level of approval for the killing of Mr Litvinenko.”

Other observers might see this honour, rather, as a level of contempt in the Kremlin for Sir Robert’s biased and un-inquisitive Inquiry.

Sir Robert consistently ignores motive and clings to a far-fetched circumstantial case against Russia’s president that suits certain interests. In fact, cui bono? Clearly not the Russian president smeared for a decade in which global solutions have been forestalled by bitterness and mistrust, nor Britain having had its judicial system co-opted by fugitive Russian wealth that is determined not to face justice.

The record should be set straight as Russia and the Western powers continue to stumble into an increasingly cold conflict. Britain suffered an unprovoked nuclear attack in its capital city, the gravity of this deserves greater scrutiny than Sir Robert Owen has been able to provide, and his conclusions, while hugely damaging international cooperation, leave every stone firmly unturned in his determination to follow the preferred narrative of certain private interests.

Yours faithfully,
Dr Julia Svetlichnaja