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Exclusive: Murdered ex-KGB officer was working for British security company

Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Monday December 11, 2006
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Continued coverage of the Litvinenko Murder

Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-FSB officer who was recently murdered in London, was working for a British security firm at the time of his death, two well placed British sources who wish to remain unidentified tell RAW STORY.

One of the 12 to 24 polonium contamination sites in the Piccadilly area of London identified by British authorities was the office of the security and risk management company Erinys International Ltd.

Erinys has been a player in international relations since it was founded in 2002 by Sean Cleary, a South African Apartheid-era official with ties to Angolan right wing extremist Jonas Savimbi, and Jonathan Garratt, a former British Guards officer. Cleary left the firm in October 2003. Garratt, for his part, has strong ties to Ahmed Chalabi, the notorious source of Iraq pre-war WMD fabrications, and managed to land Erinys an $86 million dollar contract to guard Iraqi oil pipelines after US-led forces began war with Iraq.

Two separate British sources who, given the security risk, asked to not be identified in any specific way, have confirmed that Litvinenko was working on contract for Erinys. Given the focal point of the company, Litvinenko’s employment has proven to be an interesting development.

Erinys did not return requests for comment.

Erinys and Litvinenko

"Erinys is trying to break into the Russian [security and intelligence] market and Litvinenko was the front man introducing them to all sorts of people" said one of the sources.

These sources further explained that the reason Litvinenko was meeting at Erinys' offices around the time of his contamination was to broker a deal of some sort with a Russian security startup being created by two former FSB agents, Andrei Lugovoi and his business partner Dmitry Kovtun.

The three men had a flurry of cross-nation meetings beginning shortly after the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and continuing up until Litvinenko's poisoning:

  • October 7: Anna Politkovskaya found shot to death in her apartment building
  • October 16: The three men meet at Erinys
  • October 17: Lugovoi meets Litvinenko at the Itsu sushi bar, with Kovtun and Lugovoi returning to Moscow later that evening
  • October 25: Kovtun and Lugovoi return to London
  • October 28: The two men return to Moscow
  • October 31: Kovtun and Lugovoi return and stay at the Millennium hotel
  • November 1: Litvinenko meets with Maria Scaramella at Itsu, then meets Kovtun and Lugovoi at the Millennium, then becomes violently ill.

According to the two British sources, Litvinenko was making introductions between Lugovoi and someone at Erinys. But there are additional allegations that Litvinenko had agreed to meet with the twosome to get information on Politkovskaya's death that one of the former Russian FSB officers claimed to have had.

What business dealings Litvinenko may have been pursuing as a representative of Erinys with Lugovoi and Kovtun remains unclear. However, it may be significant that Erinys added an expert in Russian and Caspian oil and gas geopolitics to their management team just last April.

Caught in the middle of a 'turf war'?

A US intelligence official suggested that Litvinenko was trying to get Erinys a security contract with one of the state-owned energy firms and speculated that this could be a reason why the FSB might have allegedly assassinated Litvinenko.

"Seems like at least one reason for the hit on Sasha Litvinenko has something to do with a turf war," said this source.

Some US intelligence experts believe that Litvinenko was lured into the meetings by Kovtun and Lugovoi on the pretext of helping Erinys extend its interests in Russia, while others believe there was a genuine and legitimate business relationship with no sinister motive behind the meetings.

Still others believe that documents relating to both Politkovskaya’s death and her work in tracing the funding of pro-Moscow Chechen alleged terrorists were passed to Litvinenko during one of these meetings by one of the two Russians, and possibly also by a third, who has vehemently denied charges that he was present.

Russian Assassinations Not New

One senior CIA officer recently back from Moscow asserted that regardless of the various possible connections among the multiple interests and activities of Litvinenko and his associates, his murder was a state sponsored "hit" with clear indications of the FSB and elements of SVR -- the Russian equivalent of the FBI -- as the culprits.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the KGB split into two structures, with the FSB taking over much of the domestic policing and intelligence services that had been under the purview of the KGB. The second structure created out of the KGB was its foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki).

European journalists, including British, Polish, and Russian writers with whom RAW STORY has been communicating, find it surprising that US interest in the Litvinenko case is so minimal. In addition, some of these journalists find what they call "conspiracy theories" of a "Putin is being framed" variety rather odd, given the "sordid activities" of the FSB under Putin.

One foreign source, who wishes to remain fully anonymous, pointed to similar assassinations conducted by Russian FSB, SVR, and GRU (Military Intelligence) agents "by the light of day" against high value targets.

This source specifically pointed to the assassination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, a writer, poet, and prominent Chechen leader critical of the Kremlin, who died in 2004 when a car bomb detonated while he was hiding out in Qatar with his family.

Qatari secret service officers detained three Russian nationals in the small hours, February 19, on suspected assassination involvement. All the three were in Qatar on mission. One of the detainees, First Secretary of the Russian Embassy, was promptly released due to diplomatic immunity, and came back to Moscow, March 24.

The others were indicted, February 26, on suspected premeditated murder, unauthorized storage of explosives, and another seven charges.

Another example of an alleged FSB assassination is eerily similar to the way that Anna Politkovskaya was killed. Galina Starovoitova, a member of the Liberal Democratic party serving in the Duma, the lower body of Russia’s parliament, was shot point blank in her apartment building in 1998. She was strongly opposed to the FSB and its leadership, including now-President Vladimir Putin, and the power of Russian intelligence and military organizations in general within the Russian government.

About 10,000 people paid their final respects to Galina Starovoitova. The line was so long that her funeral was delayed so every mourner could have a chance to pass by her casket.

The liberal member of parliament was shot to death last Friday as she walked up the stairs to her apartment. The feisty 52-year-old grandmother had planned to run for president in 2000.

In yet another example, Russian journalist Yuri Petrovich Shchekochikhin, died of a mysterious illness in 2003, later linked to thallium. He was critical of the FSB and was investigating FSB ties to US energy companies and money laundering activities.

RAW STORY earlier reported on the allegations made by Litvinenko and others concerning the alleged false-flag bombings in Russia during 1999. Well placed sources allege that Anna Politkovskaya was investigating the bombings by tracking the funding channels of the pro-Russian advocates in the Chechen leadership. The bombings were alleged to have been orchestrated by the FSB in order to frame the Chechen separatist movement and justify military action against them. The investigation into the bombings, however, was stopped dead in its tracks when yet another assassination occurred.

Sergei Yushenkov was the co-chairman of a formal committee convened to study the Russian bombings, which he, like others, came to believe were the handiwork of the FSB. He was shot point blank in Moscow, near his apartment.

Sergey Yushenkov was shot several times in the chest in the latest political assassination to rock post-Soviet Russia. The BBC's Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel says such a high-profile killing stands out even in a country where murders of politicians and businessmen are relatively common.

If and how the murder of Litvinenko relates to the 1999 bombings is very much of interest to intelligence experts watching this scandal unfold. The shady dealing of the FSB, and its alleged relationship to foreign security firms, are something authorities are looking into as well.

British authorities, however, have refrained from commenting on the questions surrounding Erinys and Litvinenko’s employment with the firm.

The Assassination Overlay

Nev Johnson, one of the two Foreign and Commonwealth Office press officers with responsibility for intelligence, primarily MI6, explained that the continuing probe makes it difficult to confirm or discuss the issues surrounding the case.

"The ongoing investigation into the death of Mr. Litvinenko precludes providing background details about his activities and location prior to his death," said Johnson. "To do so might seriously compromise the police investigation and any criminal prosecution which might be undertaken."

What most authorities in Britain and elsewhere have told RAW STORY is that Litvinenko's assassination involves an overlay of several possible criminal activities, making the waters quite muddy. What those activities are and who they involve is not elaborated on, nor are details provided.

When asked if this was a rogue group of agents within the FSB and/or SVR, the source scoffed at the idea. "The FSB is tightly controlled by the Kremlin. This nonsense about a rogue group of operatives is just that, nonsense," said the source.