Alexander Litvinenko facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsAlexander Litvinenko
Litvinenko in 2002
|Birth name||Aleksandr Valterovich Litvinenko|
|Born||30 August 1962 or
4 December 1962
Voronezh, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Died||23 November 2006 (aged 43 or 44)
Bloomsbury, London, England
|Radiation poisoning (murder)|
|Nationality||Soviet Union (1962–1991)
United Kingdom (2006–his death)
(m. 1981; div. 1994)
Marina (m. 1994–2006)
Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko (30 August 1962 or 4 December 1962 by father's account – 23 November 2006) was a British naturalised Russian defector and former officer of the Russian FSB secret service who specialised in tackling organized crime.
According to US diplomats, Litvinenko coined the phrase Mafia state. In November 1998, Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested the following March on charges of exceeding the authority of his position. He was acquitted in November 1999 but re-arrested before the charges were again dismissed in 2000. He fled with his family to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a journalist, writer and consultant for the British intelligence services.
During his time in London, Litvinenko wrote two books, Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within and Lubyanka Criminal Group, wherein he accused the Russian secret services of staging the Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in an effort to bring Vladimir Putin to power. He also accused Putin of ordering the murder in October 2006 of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
On 1 November 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised in what was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210; he died from the poisoning on 23 November. He became the first known victim of lethal polonium 210-induced acute radiation syndrome. The news of his death spread around the world, and many felt the poisoning was done by the Russian government.
Before his death, Litvinenko said: "You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world, Mr. Putin, will reverberate in your ears for the rest of your life." The day following his death, Putin publicly stated: “Mr Litvinenko is, unfortunately, not Lazarus”.
Unlike most common radiation sources, polonium-210 emits only alpha particles. These do not penetrate even a sheet of paper or human skin. Thus they are invisible to normal radiation detectors. Hospitals only have equipment to detect gamma rays. Both gamma rays and alpha particles are classified as ionizing radiation, and can cause radiation sickness.
An alpha-emitting substance can cause damage only if taken in (as food or drink) or inhaled (breathed in). It acts on living cells like a short-range weapon. Litvinenko was tested for alpha-emitters using special equipment only hours before his death.
On 7 December 2006, Litvinenko was buried at Highgate Cemetery with Muslim rites, including a Muslim prayer being said by an imam. The funeral ceremony was followed by a private memorial at which the ensemble Tonus Peregrinus sang sacred music by Russian composers Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninov, Victor Kalinnikov, and three works by British composer Antony Pitts.
The events leading up to this are a matter of controversy, starting numerous theories relating to his poisoning and death. A British murder investigation pointed to Andrey Lugovoy, a former member of Russia's Federal Protective Service, as the prime suspect. The United Kingdom demanded that Lugovoy be extradited, which is against the Constitution of Russia, which prohibits extradition of Russian citizens. Russia denied the extradition, leading to the straining of relations between Russia and the United Kingdom.
After Litvinenko's death, Marina Litvinenko, aided by biologist Alexander Goldfarb, pursued a strong campaign through the Litvinenko Justice Foundation. In October 2011, she won the right for an inquest into her husband's death to be conducted by a coroner in London; the inquest was repeatedly set back by issues relating to evidence.
A public inquiry began on 27 January 2015, and concluded in January 2016 that Litvinenko's murder was an FSB operation that was probably personally approved by Vladimir Putin and Nikolai Patrushev who was at the time Director of FSB.
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