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Self Professed CIA agent met with Litvinenko on the day he died. hey had never met before.

The last person to meet Alexander Litvinenko before he succumbed to the agonising effects of radioactive poisoning is a self-professed expert in nuclear materials.

International 'security consultant' Mario Scaramella, who joined Litvinenko for the now infamous clandestine meeting in a London sushi bar, headed an organisation which tracked dumped nuclear waste, including Soviet nuclear missiles left over from the Cold War.

Sources revealed last night that renegade Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky had also been checked for radiation. His car, in which he ferried the stricken Litvinenko to hospital, was also tested. It was further disclosed that the tycoon has been interviewed twice by police investigating Litvinenko's death, but not as a suspect.

Prof Scaramella has strongly denied any involvement in the murder and Litvinenko's family, who blame President Putin, say they do not question his loyalty. Having given an interview to The Mail on Sunday earlier in the week, Prof Scaramella yesterday said he was unwilling to say any more because he was 'co-operating with the authorities'. Earlier, he had acknowledged that 'something very strange is going on'.

Our investigations have established that:

• He has a deep knowledge of nuclear materials and their whereabouts around the globe.

• Although he describes himself as an environmentalist, he has detailed knowledge of the activities of Russian agents.

• Some of the institutions listed on his impressive CV appear to have no record of him, prompting questions about a career involving a large number of posts around the globe.

Prof Scaramella agreed to meet us in his home city of Naples to respond to allegations circulating on the internet that he was an intelligence agent in the pay of several secret services. Arriving in the lobby of a hotel flanked by two bodyguards, he produced a professional-looking dossier detailing his career.

As the meeting progressed, Prof Scaramella denied he had links to any secret services and became irritated. "You are sounding like the police,' he said. "Do not use this information against me."

Prof Scaramella's knowledge of atomic materials is clear, however. The Mail on Sunday has discovered that in June last year Italian police launched an investigation into an alleged plot to smuggle uranium into the country after being tipped off by Prof Scaramella.

He told officers that the uranium was hidden in a suitcase and had originated from an undisclosed country in the former Soviet Union. Within just 24 hours, police in Rimini made four arrests.

At the time all Prof Scaramella would say was: "I was investigating the activities of former KGB activities in San Marino. "I was also looking into the trafficking of arms from the former Soviet Union and possible links with Italian terrorist groups. During this I was passed a document that said there were former KGB men in San Marino looking at selling nuclear military material.

"I told the police that 10kg of uranium was hidden in a suitcase and on its way to Italy on June 2; and on June 2 the arrests were made and the uranium found. It was enriched uranium 90 per cent capable of making a small atomic bomb. Also an electronic target device was seized."

The uranium plot came a year after Prof Scaramella announced that he had information that 20 nuclear warheads had been lost by a Soviet submarine in the Bay of Naples.

Prof Scaramella told the Mitrokhin Commission, which investigated KGB activities in Italy, that he had been passed the information from Russian intelligence sources.

Scaramella told The Mail on Sunday that his career began in his hometown of Naples, where he qualified as a solicitor in 1995. He set up his own company, and started specialising in environmental law.

In 1996, Prof Scaramella, who is unmarried with two children, says he started work as a professor of environmental law at Externado University in Bogota, Colombia, before moving the following year to the University of Nuestra Senora del Rosario, also in Bogota. At the same time, between 1996 and 2000, he also held a post specialising in environmental crime at the University of Naples.

Between 2000 and 2002, Prof Scaramella was secretary general of a little-known organisation named the Environmental Crime Prevention Programme. The ECPP describes itself as an organisation which 'provides environmental protection and security through technology on a global basis'.

It has offices at the Fucino Space Centre in Italy to deploy 'aerial surveillance to detect environmental crimes in Eastern and Southern Europe'.

On its website, the ECPP described itself as a 'permanent intergovernmental conference' with a secretariat in Naples and rotating presidencies held by countries such as Angola and Samoa.

None of the contact details listed for the organisation on its website work. When Prof Scaramella was asked where the group's head office was he said there wasn't one - you had to contact the general secretary, who currently was a Professor Papadopoulos from California's San Jose university.

A Dr Perikles Papadopoulos - listed as an assistant secretary general of the organisation - could not be reached. And last night, neither the campaign group Greenpeace, nor the Environment Investigation Agency, which campaigns against environmental destruction, could recall working with the organisation.

In 2003 he made the jump from environmental expert to KGB specialist when he was appointed as a consultant to the Mitrokhin commission. It was that work which put him into contact with Litvinenko and led to the sushi lunch, which he says he arranged to discuss a 'death list' which named both him and Litvinenko

Prof Scaramella explained that Professor Papadopoulos was key to his appointment on to the Italian parliamentary commission, facilitating a meeting in London with Italian legal officials setting up the inquiry.

Italy was a nest of CIA and KGB agents during the Cold War: Washington regarded the socialist-leaning country as the West European country most susceptible to influence from Moscow.

Vasili Mitrokhin was a senior archivist for Russia's foreign intelligence service. His records of the period have led to inquiries across the globe, including the UK. One of the conclusions of the Italian inquiry was that the former Soviet Union was behind the assassination attempt on the late Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Prof Scaramella explained that he had been approached by the commission because his career had given him a passing connection to Russia. "My work involved a lot of Soviet issues - the dumping of radioactive waste, which can be detected from space, and the loss of nuclear devices,' he said.

"I said to them, "I am not an expert on security services, only nuclear waste." But the commission said they wanted people from outside to investigate. So in 2003 I looked at the operations of the KGB and Eastern bloc countries on Italian soil, including the funding of Italian journalists by the KGB."

In 2004, Prof Scaramella also led an investigation on the illegal dumping of waste by the mafia in an Italian lake. Despite being only a civilian environmental consultant, he led two armed police agents to a villa where the suspects lived. They were greeted by a hail of bullets. One mafioso was arrested, and an arms cache seized.

Scaramella also told us that he also found time in 1999 to become a visiting scientist at Stanford University in California, and was made director of a university Nato programme which involved visiting Lithuania.

In 2002, at the same time as he says he was completing his duties for the ECPP, he also started a school of national security in Colombia to train local police. The same year, he says he was also based for four months at Greenwich University in London, again working on environmental law.

It is hard to corroborate details of Scaramella's career.

A spokesman at the University of Naples said last night: "There is no record of a Professor Mario Scaramella working here. He may well have been hired internally as an independent working within one of the faculties but our system has no record of him."

And Dr Maria Scaramella, a namesake at the university, said: "I used to get all this post for him but I could never actually find him. He was supposed to have an office on the third floor but I was never able to find it. He was supposed to have some sort of European funding for research but I never knew exactly what."

A spokesman for Greenwich University also said they had no record of him on its books.

None of the American or Colombian universities responded to messages asking whether Prof Scaramella had worked for them.

Internet discussion forums have buzzed with theories about Prof Scaramella this week - the most damaging claiming that he is a secret service operative with split loyalties who uses a range of political and business interests as a front for his activities. But he insisted: "I have never been to any security service headquarters or met any acting officers."

Prof Scaramella says he struck up an association with Litvinenko during his work for the Mitrokhin Commission, and they had met several times before in the Itsu restaurant to discuss intelligence matters.

He claimed that tip-off from Litvinenko had helped to foil a bizarre assassination attempt last year on Paolo Guzzanti, an Italian senator who headed the Mitrokhin inquiry. It led to the arrest of six Ukrainians who were said to have been trying to smuggle grenades into the country hidden inside hollowed-out Bibles.

"He was my friend - that is why he gave me this,' he said, brandishing a picture of Litvinenko training as a young KGB officer.

Even Prof Scaramella's father, Amedeo, was perplexed about his son's career. "I think it's best you talk to Mario,' he said. "I don't really want to say anything. He divides his time between Naples and Rome and he also spends a lot of time overseas. I don't ask too many questions."

Prof Scaramella said: "I am not willing to say anything else. I am co-operating with the authorities. If you want any information ask Scotland Yard."

The story of Alexander Litvinenko—the former KGB agent contaminated with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 who died in a London hospital insisting that he had been poisoned by agents of Russian President Vladimir Putin—grabbed the world's attention. But what of Mario Scaramella, who met with Litvinenko at the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly Circus and was himself diagnosed with the dangerous radioactive substance in his blood? * He is a kind of Rosencrantz or Guildenstern of the Litvinenko tragedy, a minor character who sheds a highly revealing sidelight on the larger drama while also illuminating a different and very Italian tragedy. He is a type that shows up in spy stories—a teller of tall tales and half-truths; part Walter Mitty, part con man, part spy; a person who by virtue of bogus credentials and connections acquires real credentials and real connections. The Italians have a term for people like this that has no exact equivalent in English: millantatore di credito—someone who claims to know a lot more and to have done a lot more than he really does. (It is even a crime in Italy, generally invoked in fraud cases.) Advertisement

Although a baby-faced man of only 36, Scaramella claims to have been recruited several years ago by the CIA to trace relationships between South American narco-traffickers and Russian spy agencies. He has claimed to have been educated in England, Belgium, and France, without saying exactly where. He says he taught at the University of Naples (which says it has no record of him) and at various American universities, including San Jose University (which doesn't exist—though there is a San Jose State University, which says it knows nothing of Scaramella)—and Stanford University. He claims to have been a judge, but this appears to have consisted of an unpaid position as a justice of the peace. The one indisputable element in Scaramella's résumé is that for the last three years he has served as a paid consultant on a commission of the Italian parliament set up by then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2002 to investigate the occult influence of the KGB in Italian life. As newly published wiretaps reveal, the commission quickly degenerated into a dirty-tricks operation to dig up dirt on Berlusconi's political opponents. The commission was named for Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist who moved to England in 1984 and claimed to have copied extensive portions of KGB files on its agents and informants operating in the United States and Europe. While British intelligence made a serious effort to document and verify the information that Mitrokhin brought to them, the same care was not taken in Italy. When Silvio Berlusconi took over as prime minister in 2001, he saw the Mitrokhin case as a cudgel with which to beat his political opposition. Berlusconi created the Mitrokhin Commission to investigate KGB infiltration in Italy and handed the direction of it to Paolo Guzzanti, who simultaneously works as a member of parliament for Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and as deputy editor of the Berlusconi family newspaper Il Giornale. Guzzanti's double role is typical of the rampant conflicts of interest of Italy in the era of Berlusconi—who saw nothing wrong with owning half the country's media outlets while running the country. However, the commission failed to provide the rich material that Berlusconi and Guzzanti were hoping for—material to keep the Italian left on the defensive and in opposition for years to come. Mitrokhin's information was very old, and most of the people in his files were dead or retired. "There wasn't much to discover about spies and foreign agents," said Giulio Andreotti, an Italian senator and former prime minister during the Cold War period and himself a conservative member of the Mitrokhin Commission, in a recent interview with La Repubblica. "All the material had been published already in Great Britain, and there was really no reason to do further investigations." As a result, in 2003, Guzzanti hired Scaramella hoping to dig up information of more recent vintage. Of course, this meant going beyond documentary evidence supposedly copied by Mitrokhin from the KGB files, investigating all sorts of ties between Russia and Italian politicians, and refreshing the memories of unemployed or underemployed former spies with nothing to sell other than their stories. The commission's work was so poorly regarded even by many conservatives that not only was it unable to generate a bipartisan report, but Guzzanti ended up issuing a report without the signatures of his fellow commissioners on the center-right. Even after issuing his official report in December of 2004, Guzzanti continued his investigations with Scaramella at his side. But soon enough, Scaramella became a major source of embarrassment. He told Italian authorities that the Russians had planted an antenna on Mount Vesuvius that could activate nuclear missiles that were in a sunken Soviet submarine at the bottom of the Bay of Naples. Investigations found no antenna, and the submarine in question was known to have sunk in the Bay of Biscay. In looking for the mysterious antenna, Scaramella obtained a police escort and got involved in a shootout that he described as an attempt on his life. Investigations proved that Scaramella's bodyguard had done all the shooting, firing 16 bullets into a parked car. Scaramella insisted that he was the target of an assassination squad from Ukraine connected to al-Qaida, and he led police to a truck containing four Ukrainians and an unimpressive stash of arms: two grenades. Scaramella's precise knowledge of the operation attracted suspicion, and he is now under investigation for arms trafficking. He also claimed that Russians were transporting a shipment of uranium across Italy—another claim that didn't pan out. Scaramella's interest in nuclear waste is linked to a business he has set up in the field of environmental security. He lists himself as the "secretary general" of an organization, allegedly connected to the United Nations, known as the Environmental Crime Protection Program, which has been described as little more than a small office in Naples, an "empty box," that gives Scaramella an impressive-sounding title to put on his business card. The ECPP, in turn, could be used to win government contracts for investigating crimes against the environment—hence Scaramella's claims about uranium shipments and nuclear missiles in Italy. Potentially, this was a good fit with his position as consultant to the Mitrokhin Commission, putting him into contact with former Soviet spies who might give him information about hazardous nuclear materials that he could, in turn, use to drum up business for his Environmental Crime Protection Program. Scaramella was interested in what Litvinenko could tell him about the status of Russian nuclear materials and potentially embarrassing material about Italian politicians. We know that he was trying to get the former KGB agent to state that Berlusconi's principal political rival (and current prime minister) Romano Prodi was being groomed as a Soviet spy, but the presence of polonium-210 at their last meeting may have been related to Scaramella's interest in nuclear materials in his environmental security business. British police have not immediately accepted Litvinenko's claim to have been poisoned by Vladmir Putin's secret police. It is possible that Litvinenko may have been trafficking in nuclear materials and accidentally poisoned himself while handling a leaky vial of the radioactive isotope. This would explain why traces of polonium-210 have turned up in different places where Litvinenko went in early November. Scaramella, along with a few others, may have been accidentally exposed in the process. For Scaramella, a man who had been insisting that he was the target of a massive international assassination plot, the polonium episode may have appeared like the fulfillment of his deepest fantasies. He and Guzzanti held press conferences and gave interviews by the dozen about being targets of an international hit squad. (Why Putin would want to kill associates of his good friend and ally Berlusconi, they never explained.) As the criminal investigations into his activities heated up, Scaramella flew to London and announced that he had ingested "five times the lethal dose" of polonium—a fact immediately denied by British doctors. In Rome, Guzzanti told the press that Scaramella had been given a "death sentence." A week later, Scaramella walked out of a London hospital under his own steam, apparently in good health, saying that he had been contaminated accidentally. In the last few days, another KGB agent and sometime source of Scaramella's, Oleg Gordievsky, has come forward, granting a long interview to Rome's La Repubblica in which he revealed that Scaramella persecuted him for two years, trying to get him to make false statements about Prodi and other politicians of the Italian center-left. He referred to Scaramella as a pathological liar and a megalomaniac. At a certain point, he says he e-mailed Guzzanti, insisting that Scaramella was a "mental case" who needed to be reined in. He then contacted MI6 and asked the British security service to get the Italians to cease and desist. Advertisement

The kind of thing that Scaramella was really up to in London has come out in a series of wiretapped phone conversations made in the course of the arms-dealing investigation. Most revealing of all was a series of phone conversations between Scaramella and Guzzanti that took place a month before the Italian national elections this March, in which Prodi narrowly defeated Berlusconi. (Guzzanti and Scaramella have expressed outrage that the conversations of a member of parliament were wiretapped and leaked to the press, but they have not contested the accuracy of the accounts published in the newspapers.) Scaramella tells Guzzanti that he has a former KGB agent who is prepared to go on record saying that the KGB was "cultivating" Romano Prodi as a source. "There is no information that Prodi was a KGB agent, but we can talk about his being 'cultivated,' " Scaramella tells Guzzanti. "Cultivated is enough," Guzzanti says. "It's a lot, but don't imagine we're going to get a statement by whoever saying 'Prodi was an agent.' ... What is undoubtedly true is that the Russians considered Prodi a friend of the Soviet Union." Guzzanti becomes furious: "Friend of the Soviet Union doesn't mean a thing. What do I give a shit about a friend of the Soviet Union? Does that sound like a big news story to you: friend of the Soviet Union? … But 'cultivated' suits me fine." In another conversation, Scaramella insisted that Berlusconi promised him a job at the United Nations after the elections, though Berlusconi has denied even knowing who Scaramella is. But in one of his wiretapped conversations, Guzzanti indicates that he has kept Berlusconi informed about his investigations. "The news made a big impact," Guzzanti told Scaramella. "I told him that the problem with this business is that we need to be able to prove what we're saying, and he, surprising me a bit, said, 'Well, in the meanwhile, we force them to defend themselves.' " What the Litvinenko-Scaramella connection offers—along with a glimpse at the murky world of former Soviet spies—is a picture of Berlusconi's Italy, in which bogus scandals are manufactured in order to distract attention from real scandals (many involving Berlusconi and his associates), a place where a businessman-turned-politician can use one of his journalists to conduct a bogus investigation carried out by a shady con man without the least regard for the truth or lack of truth in whatever dirt they dig up.

A contact and the wife of dead former spy Alexander Litvinenko have both tested positive for polonium-210, the substance found in the Russian's body. Italian Mario Scaramella is not thought to be suffering physical symptoms but the amount found is "likely to be of concern for [his] immediate health".

Mr Litvinenko's wife, Marina, has also been found to have traces of the substance but is not currently ill.

She is reported to be "very slightly contaminated" and is not in hospital.

A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said: "The levels are not significant enough to result in any illness in the short term and the results are reassuring in that any increased risk in the long term is likely to be very small."

Mr Scaramella met Mr Litvinenko at a sushi restaurant, Itsu, in central London on 1 November, the day the former KGB agent fell ill.

The Italian has now been admitted to London's University College Hospital for further tests.

Hospital reassurance

Dr Keith Patterson, of University College Hospital, said: "Tests have detected polonium-210 in Mr Scaramella's body, but at a considerably lower level than Mr Litvinenko.

"He is currently well and shows no symptoms of radiation poisoning. He is receiving further tests over the weekend."

Those present at the examination at the Royal London Hospital, in east London, wore protective clothing to avoid contamination by traces of the polonium-210 isotope. Results may not be available for several days.

The BBC understands Mr Litvinenko's family have been told he will have to be buried in a sealed coffin, and if they wanted to have a cremation they would have to wait 22 years.

Mr Scaramella is involved in an Italian parliamentary inquiry into KGB activity and was sufficiently worried by the contents of an e-mail to ask for advice from Mr Litvinenko.

The e-mail said that he, Mr Litvinenko and an Italian senator, Paolo Guzzanti, were possible targets for assassination.

Friends of Mr Litvinenko believe he was poisoned because of his criticisms of the Putin government.

The Kremlin has denied any suggestion it was involved in any way as "sheer nonsense".

Mr Litvinenko died last week in a London hospital Mr Scaramella was taken to University College Hospital in an ambulance.

A room was also sealed off at Ashdown Park Hotel, in Sussex. It is thought this is in connection with the investigation into Mr Scaramella.

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten, an acquaintance of Mr Scaramella, said he had seemed fine when they last spoke.

"The last time I spoke to him, on Sunday I think, his worry about his own contamination had been allayed - he thought he was ok."

  • Contact with carrier's sweat or urine could lead to exposure
  • But polonium-210 must be ingested to cause damage
  • Radiation has very short range and cannot pass through skin
  • Washing eliminates traces

Mr Guzzanti has indicated he fears for his life and is contacting Italian authorities to check if he has been poisoned.

Mr Litvinenko, an ex-KGB officer and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died last week of radiation poisoning attributed to polonium-210.

The investigation into the spy's death has unearthed traces of radiation at 12 locations, including two BA planes.

British Airways is contacting 33,000 passengers from 221 flights, but the airline and the government have stressed any risk to public health low.

On Friday the British Embassy in Moscow said there was no information to suspect any link between Mr Litvinenko's death and former prime minister of Russia Yegor Gaidar, who was taken ill in the Republic of Ireland.

But RTE news reported that the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is checking the National University of Ireland Maynooth, County Kildare, and the James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, Co Dublin for the presence of polonium.

The university has done its own parallel tests, which it says were negative.

Ten days after Alexander Litvinenko succumbed in a London hospital to poisoning by highly radioactive polonium-210, the mystery surrounding the death of the former Russian agent has merely deepened.

The affair has drawn in the Kremlin and its security services, Russian exiles in Britain, and reports of radioactive traces being found not only in London but on aircraft plying the Moscow route. Only yesterday a Finnair jetliner tested positive in the Russian capital. But in an exotic cast of characters, nobody is more mysterious than Mario Scaramella, the self-styled Italian "professor" who lunched with the Russian defector on the day he was poisoned.

It was at the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly, where the two men met at 3pm on 1 November, that the highest levels of polonium-210 radiation have been found. Mr Scaramella says he only drank water, while Mr Litvinenko had miso soup and sushi. Traces of the radioactive substance have also been found in the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, where the defector had tea with Russian associates, including a former colleague in the FSB, the successor service to the KGB, later in the afternoon.

And Mr Scaramella himself has now tested positive for the deadly isotope, and is being treated at University College Hospital, where Mr Litvinenko died. Mr Scaramella is not said to be in danger, but somehow or other he came into contact with the substance.

Mr Litvinenko accused Mr Scaramella of poisoning him from the day he first fell ill: as the Italian told me, his name was all over Russian and Chechen websites as the main suspect in the poisoning of the former FSB agent long before the story hit the British press. Mr Litvinenko retained his suspicion right up to his death. Speaking of the Itsu meeting, he said: "Mario didn't want anything, he gave me the email printouts ... I said to myself, he could have sent these emails by computer. But instead he wanted to come and give them to me in person: why, and why in such a hurry? He was very nervous."

Mr Scaramella told me that he wanted to hand over the emails in person, because their contents were so sensitive. He said that he told the Russian at the restaurant: "You introduced me to [former Russian spy] Yevgeny Limarev, now Limarev has sent me a very strong statement."

The emails, which The Independent on Sunday has seen, stated that " Russian intelligence officers speak more and more about the necessity to use force" against Mr Scaramella and Mr Litvinenko, among others. But Mr Limarev has denied sending the emails, and his name does not appear anywhere in them.

British police have said they do not consider Mr Scaramella a suspect in Mr Litvinenko's death. He flew to London again last week to meet detectives voluntarily, and the two bodyguards keeping an eye on him at University College Hospital are there for his protection. Since being named as Mr Litvinenko's murderer in the Chechen press, he told me, his life has been at risk. "I was told, if you touch Mr Litvinenko, the Chechens will kill you," he said. "The Chechens have identified me as a military target." Mr Litvinenko was a strong supporter of the Chechen cause after defecting to the UK in 2001.

But while Mr Scaramella's problems in Britain may be mostly medical, in Italy last week he found himself at the centre of a criminal investigation. The accusations date from the five years when he was a consultant to the Mitrokhin Commission, an Italian parliamentary body set up in 2001 on the orders of the then Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to investigate the activities of Soviet and post-Soviet spies in Italy.

Mr Scaramella claims to be many things, including a professor at Naples University, an honorary magistrate, and consultant to something called the Environmental Crime Protection Programme (ECPP). But Naples University has not heard of him. The ECPP has no fixed office. The post as magistrate is non-paying. The only job he has had in recent years over which there is no doubt is with the Mitrokhin Commission.

Yet it is this job, which finished before Italy's general election in April, that has now landed him in hot water. On the orders of the public prosecutor of Naples, Mr Scaramella's phone was tapped; last week Italian papers published what were reported to be transcripts of conversations between him and the president of the Mitrokhin Commission, Senator Paolo Guzzanti, a member of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

The transcripts allegedly show the two men discussing how Mr Scaramella is to acquire strong enough evidence from Moscow to label Romano Prodi, then the leader of Italy's centre-left opposition, now Prime Minister, a tool of the Russians. Other members of the Prodi government were also said to have been targeted, including the head of the Green Party, Alfonso Scanio, who is now environment minister.

"We can't go so far as to say Prodi is a KGB agent," Mr Scaramella allegedly says at one point. "But we can say that the Russians consider Prodi a friend ..." Mr Guzzanti explodes. "Friend doesn't mean a fucking thing!" he roars. "Are you taking me for a cunt?"

Lawyers for Mr Scaramella and Mr Guzzanti have protested at the bugging, but have not questioned the authenticity of the transcripts. After they appeared, Mr Prodi announced that he would sue "all those who, by words and deeds, have wounded my dignity as a citizen and as a representative of institutions".

Doubts about Mr Scaramella's work for the Mitrokhin Commission are not new. In 2004, opposition members of the commission described his contributions as "barely credible and not at all helpful ... grotesque and mysterious ... " But yesterday Oleg Gordievsky, the most senior Russian agent ever to defect to Britain, said Mr Scaramella's main source for allegations against Mr Prodi was none other than Mr Litivinenko, who came to this country in 2000 and recently became a British citizen.

"I was with Litvinenko when we met members of the UK Independence Party, " Mr Gordievsky told the IoS yesterday. "He told them that a KGB general, Anatoly Trofimov, had said to him: 'Prodi is one of ours.' The UKIP members later repeated the allegation in the European Parliament, when Mr Prodi was head of the European Commission in Brussels."

Mr Gordievsky, who was smuggled to Britain by MI6 after coming under suspicion as a double agent in 1985, said he knew nothing to support the allegations against Mr Prodi. But he was at one with Mr Litvinenko's other associates in accusing the Kremlin of murdering him. "Since July Russia has had a law permitting the FSB to kill people abroad that it doesn't like," he said. "They killed a British citizen on British soil, and they are smearing other people, including me."

The death of the former FSB agent is an undoubted embarrassment to Britain's security services, amid suggestions that they relaxed their guard once he had been in the country for a few years. But one well-connected source claimed the investigation into the affair showed there were wider implications. He speculated that Mr Litvinenko's poisoning could have been an accidental by-product of a terror plot involving radioactive material, and directed against Russia.

But the more the affair is discussed, the murkier it becomes. Nuclear experts insist that only a state would have the resources necessary to produce the polonium-210 used in the killing. One source said that officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had helped investigators identify the Russian reactor where the polonium used to kill Mr Litvinenko was produced. In Russia, the source, added, security is not tight around Russian reactors. There would be plenty of highly qualified but poorly paid scientists with access to the material who could be tempted to obtain it on behalf of a criminal gang in return for money.

All this, however, does not answer the question: who killed Alexander Litvinenko? "All we have is a significant date of 1 November, because that is when Litvinenko became ill," said a Whitehall source. " According to the records, that is the first time that he called an ambulance. "

Scotland Yard is still working round the clock to plot the radiation trail, which appears to have spread not only round parts of England but also the world. Detectives are trying to work their way back to a "clean episode" where there is no radiation contamination. Only then can they establish when and where Mr Litvinenko came to ingest such a huge dose of polonium-210. They have not ruled out murder or suicide, but it is understood officers have ruled out a link between a reported firebomb attack on Mr Litvinenko's London home and his poisoning. His body suffered extreme trauma as a result of the level of radiation it received, but experts hope they can still establish the exact dose that he ingested.

But Whitehall is playing down any suggestion that the contamination of Mr Scaramella makes him a likely suspect. "It is unlikely for a major suspect to return to a crime scene and even more unlikely for them to voluntarily give police a debrief. This is being treated as a suspicious event, not as a murder inquiry," one source said.

Additional reporting by Sophie Goodchild, Raymond Whitaker and Francis Elliott

From Moscow to Rome: Some of Italy's leading figures have crossed Mario Scaramella's path


Set up the Mitrokhin Commission, which hired Scaramella as a consultant. The commission has been called a crude attempt to smear Berlusconi's opponents as communists


Now Prime Minister. Said to be the principal target of attempts to link Italian

politicians with the KGB. Among his accusers, according to another defector, was Alexander Litvinenko


Senator from Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and head of the Mitrokhin Commission. Phone transcripts allegedly show him using obscenities as he tells Scaramella to find more dirt on Prodi


Now environment minister and another alleged target of political smear campaign. Right, the front page of La Repubblica, carrying leaked transcripts of calls between Guzzanti and Scaramella

THE WIDOW: 'My love for my wife and son knows no bounds'

One of the few people to have remained silent since the death of Alexander Litvinenko is his widow, Marina, despite all the speculation, claims and counter-claims about who poisoned her husband.

Mrs Litvinenko, 44, was at the former KGB agent's bedside when he died on 23 November, and this week she faces the heartbreaking task of burying him in a specially sealed coffin.

In the long term, she also faces the possible impact of having been in close contact with her husband in the weeks leading up to his death. It is understood that she is the "family member" who has tested positive for small amounts of polonium-210, although health protection officials have refused to confirm this.

Mrs Litvinenko stayed with her husband as he lay dying in University College Hospital. The level of polonium-210 she has been exposed to is not thought to be dangerous, but it could increase her risk of cancer.

Those close to Mrs Litvinenko have said she repeatedly claimed that her husband had been deliberately targeted after a meeting with an underworld contact, but that medical staff had ignored her.

One is reported as saying: "She suspected from an early stage that her husband had been poisoned, but the hospital staff weren't taking her seriously. Had they tested for poison earlier, then maybe they could have done something to prevent him getting worse."

A day before his death, Mr Litvinenko paid tribute to her in a whispered statement: "I thank my wife, Marina. My love for her and our son knows no bounds."

At the end of Nanni Moretti's film, Il Caimano (The Cayman), supporters of Silvio Berlusconi stone the magistrates and set fire to the courthouse which has just tried him for corruption. The film, which keeps close to the real events surrounding Berlusconi's time in office, suggests what many people knew long ago; that Italy's ex-prime minister has always viewed himself above the law, and that he has an obsessive fear of "red judges", communists and coglioni (dickheads) intent on bringing him down.

This strategy was most apparent during and after the election campaign in April 2006 when, after a sustained attempt to characterise his centre-left rival Romano Prodi as a stooge of the communist left with his own dodgy business links, he refused to accept the decision of the electorate. Indeed he threatened to make Italy ungovernable and to use every parliamentary loophole available to bring the government down.

On this occasion he has been true to his word. A demonstration in Rome on 2 December 2006 (dubbed by the media "Berlusconi day") saw up to a million demonstrate against the government's new budget and ended with a call from Berlusconi for a recountof the 9-10 Aprilelection. Not for the first time his demand was accommodated by a weak and uncertain political class (there had also been rival claims from two leftwing journalists of cheating in the ballot by Berlusconi's Forza Italia); the senate has now ordered a recount of a selection of the ballots of an election held eight months ago, though most doubt it will find anything substantial.

The strategy of fear that Berlusconi has sustained since the election fits perfectly his populist mode of governing which appeals directly to the people through emotive language, scaremongering and constant claims that powerful interests are conspiring against him.

Also in openDemocracy on the case of Alexander Litvinenko:

Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, "Alexander Litvinenko: the poison of power" (20 November 2006)

A secret conversation

It is only in this context that we can understand the strange case of Mario Scaramella, the self-styled security expert who was with Alexander Litvinenko in the sushi bar in Wardour Street, Piccadilly on that fateful 1 November meeting. We don't know whether Silvio Berlusconi offered Scaramella a job at the United Nations if he found evidence to link Romano Prodi to the KGB as Scaramella has claimed (Berlusconi denies ever having met him).

However we do know that what started out as a case of "dirty tricks" in the KGB has become an issue of "dirty tricks" in Italian politics, reflecting the fear, rancour and culture of illegality that has characterised the Berlusconi years. Indeed, as is now becoming clear, Mario Scaramella shares the same obsessions, attracts the same interest from the magistrates and has a similar murky and mysterious background as that of the former Italian premier.

Scaramella was employed as a security consultant by the Mitrokhin commission set up by Berlusconi in 2002 and disbanded earlier in 2006. This commission, named after the former major of the KGB (Vasili Mitrokhin) who defected to the west from post-Soviet Russia in 1992 with an archive of KGB dealings and contacts, was supposedly set up to investigate links between the KGB and Italian politicians during the cold war. Italy had been in the period the home of western Europe's largest communist party, though it was also increasingly the one most critical of Moscow (and from the mid-1970s, under the leadership of Enrico Berlinguer, openly critical of Soviet policy).

Scaramella's own background is as mysterious as everything else in the Litvinenko case. A man from Naples in his mid-30s, he describes himself as an academic though, as yet, none of the universities to which he claims alignment has confirmed he is, or has been, on their books. He runs his own environmental-crime protection unit, though he himself has been under investigation for smuggling weapons between Italy and Russia, for breaching security rules, for being involved in a waste-disposal scam in Naples and in unsolved cases of stolen uranium. He has even been involved in a shoot-out with members of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia.

Critics suggest that the real purpose of the Mitrokhin commission was to discredit the left and Romano Prodi's leadership. In a telephone conversation between Scaramella and Paolo Guzzanti, the commission's president, on 28 January 2006 (intercepted byCorriere della Sera), Scaramella is overhead telling Guzzanti that Romani Prodi was "cultivated by the KGB", citing the ex-KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky as his source. Guzzanti responds: "In that case he is our man?" "Yes" is Scaramella's reply. "That's enough. I don't want to know anything else", Guzzanti replies.

These accusations have led the Italian prime minister to respond with legal action. The claims of a politically motivated plot against him look stronger when the role of Scaramella is examined further. In another telephone conversation with a Californian named "Perry" three days earlier on 25 January, an excited Scaramella has some news for his American friend.

He repeats the "evidence" supplied by Gordievsky, only this time Prodi is described as a former "agent of the KGB". He also elaborates on Prodi's supposed role in the KGB, citing a former US intelligence officer Lou Palumbo, who allegedly told him that Prodi was attached to two different KGB departments, the fifth department and Service A (which was responsible for "active measures"). He also tells Perry that he has informed Berlusconi of his findings and that Berlusconi was "organising his [election] campaign on this".

Scaramella then recounts his conversation with Berlusconi, in which he asked the then Italian premier for a job, preferably at Nato or the United Nations. He claims that he was first offered a place in parliament, which he declined because he feared a robust campaign against him after he had made his claims against Prodi public, and that he "preferred a post outside Italy in an international organisation".

The past's shadow

The president of the Mitrokhin commission, Paolo Guzzanti, is a Forza Italia senator and as a journalist has long held a senior position at Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family, which has been running the KGB-Italian left story for months. (He is also the father of Sabina Guzzanti, a prominent leftwing comedian whose satirical programme Raiot was removed from the airwaves after protests from the Berlusconi government). In recent days Paolo Guzzanti has defended the role of the commission, denying it had an ulterior political motive and that it was a serious attempt to understand the KGB's links with Italy.

In fact the Mitrokhin commission itself produced no concrete evidence of any links between Italian left wing politicians and the KGB before it was wound up in 2006. It has, however, produced some absurd claims, including the one that the KGB organised the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul in 1981 and the 1978 Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades') murder of Italian prime minister Aldo Moro.

In the last few days Scaramella's chief source of evidence for Prodi's KGB links has spoken out. In an interview with La Repubblica, Oleg Gordievsky flatly denied Scaramella's story, describing Scaramella as "a mental case" and a "filthy liar who wanted to ruin Prodi". Denying that he ever said that Prodi was a KGB agent or had been "cultivated" by Soviet intelligence, (as Scaramella has claimed) Gordievsky recounted how he had been approached by Scaramella three years ago after being recommended by Guzzanti as a reliable and trustworthy member of the commission.

Litvinenko, Scaramella and Gordievsky, the ex-Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky and a British MEP met together in a hotel in Regent Street when Litvinenko passed on the view of a former KGB colonel Anatoli Trofimov (assassinated in 2005), that there were many KGB men in Italy and that even Prodi was suspected.

In Gordievsky's view, Litvinenko, for reasons that were unclear (possibly to maintain future contacts) had "decided to say what Scaramella wanted to hear". By this time Scaramella was convinced he had got his man. Bukovsky has also revealed to La Repubblica that Scaramella was obsessed with nailing Prodi, insisting to Bukovsky that he re-examine his evidence, even after the Russian had stated emphatically that he could not find a trace of evidence linking Prodi to the KGB.

There are many unanswered questions in the Litvinenko poisoning. The precise nature of Scaramella's involvement is still unclear. He has claimed that he arranged to meet Litvinenko to discuss threats made on his life by Russian secret-service agents, following the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. He has also said that his life and that of Paolo Guzzanti had been threatened in response to criticism made by the commission. If, from the Russian angle, it is a case worthy of a John Le Carré novel, then it is also true that the deceit, illusions of power and obsessions that have surrounded Scaramella's role in the events, have a depressing resonance with the current state of Italian politics.

Speaking to reporters from his London hospital bed, on the day that he had been cleared of having any trace of Polonium 210 on his body (despite Guzzanti's earlier tearful prediction that he was on the verge of death after having five times the lethal amount), Scaramella defended his role in the commission: "I have only done my job, without prejudice and without any political interest".

SCOTLAND YARD is investigating a suspected plot to assassinate a former Russian spy in Britain by poisoning him with thallium, the deadly metal. Aleksander Litvinenko, who defected to Britain six years ago, is fighting for his life in a London hospital. A toxicology test at Guy's hospital last Thursday confirmed the presence of the odourless, tasteless poison. (...) In an interview last week at his bedside in the cancer ward of Barnet hospital, where he was being treated under a different name, Litvinenko said he believed it was a murder plot to avenge his defection.

"They probably thought I would be dead from heart failure by the third day," he said. "I do feel very bad. I've never felt like this before -- like my life is hanging on the ropes."

Litvinenko claimed political asylum in 2000 and was granted British citizenship last month. One of the highest profile defectors from the FSB, he is on the wanted list in Moscow where he has made powerful enemies with his criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

Last month Litvinenko received an unexpected e-mail from a man he knew as Mario, an acquaintance he had made in Italy. The Italian said he wanted to meet him in London because he had some important information about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian investigative journalist who was killed in the lift of her Moscow apartment block.

Litvinenko was a friend of Politkovskaya, one of the Kremlin's most powerful critics, particularly over the war in Chechnya.

"We met at Piccadilly Circus," said Litvinenko. "Mario said he wanted to sit down to talk to me, so I suggested we go to a Japanese restaurant nearby.

"I ordered lunch but he ate nothing. He appeared to be very nervous. He handed me a four-page document which he said he wanted me to read right away. It contained a list of names of people, including FSB officers, who were purported to be connected with the journalist's murder.

"The document was an e-mail but it was not an official document. I couldn't understand why he had to come all the way to London to give it to me. He could have e-mailed it to me."

After the meeting the Italian had simply "disappeared", although Litvinenko emphasised that he was not in a position to accuse him of involvement in his poisoning.

According to a report published in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets ("Moscow Young Communist League Member") Mr Litvinenko is a double agent and recently visited Moscow giving testimonies to Russian police about the murder of an American female journalist of jewish origin in Russia. Menwhile, the FSB is unofficially reported to have killed the woman. According to the FSB report published today in Moskovsky Komsomolets, Mr Litvinenko was poisoned in a London restaurant by a CIA agent, Mario Scaramella, on November 1, 2006, purportedly in connection with his role as a double agent, the role invented by the FSB in this story to descredit Mr Litvinenko.

As earlier reported by the Chechepress news agency, Mario Scaramella is a FSB agent in Italy and a close friend and business partner of the FSB deputy chief Kolmogorov. The Italian visited several time the FSB headquarters in Moscow.

Gerard Batten MEP - 60 second speech to the European Parliament - "Romano Prodi" - Strasbourg 3.4.06 03-04-2006 One of my constituents, Alexander Litvinenko, was formerly a Lieutenant Colonel in the Russian Federation's FSB, the successor to the KGB. Mr Litvinenko's exposure of illegal FSB activities forced him to seek political asylum abroad.

Before deciding on a place of refuge he consulted his friend, General Anatoly Trofimov, a former Deputy Chief of the FSB. General Trofimov reportedly said to Mr Litvinenko, "Don't go to Italy, there are many KGB agents among the politicians: Romano Prodi is our man there."

In February 2006 Mr Litvinenko reported this information to Mario Scaramella of the Guzzanti Commission investigating KGB penetration of Italian politics.

Alexander Litvinenko's father calls his son a traitor The father of murdered Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko has dramatically withdrawn his claims that his son was killed in London on Vladimir Putin's orders, branding his own son a traitor who may have deserved to die. Speaking to Russian state TV in his tiny flat in Italy, Walter Litvinenko, 73, said he deeply regretted accusing the Russian prime minister and FSB security service of involvement in his son's death, saying he hoped to be forgiven and allowed to return to Russia. "Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin), If you are watching this programme, please forgive me for all the slander that I said and wrote about you, for all the hatred I had for you," he told RT, the Kremlin's English-language satellite TV channel. "If only I had known that my son had worked for British intelligence I would not have talked about his death. He could easily have been shot as a double agent. Traitors should be shot." Suggesting his son was involved in a murky espionage world who may have been the author of his own demise, he conceded he could not be 100 per cent sure that he really did work for MI6 however. Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB security service agent and outspoken Kremlin critic, died in London in 2006 after drinking a cup of tea laced with radioactive polonium 210 in a top London hotel.

Speaking at his current home in Italy, a sobbing Valter Litvinenko told Russian TV he wanted back to Russia.

"Forgive me, my Motherland, for God's sake," the 73-year-old said. "Help me, an old man, to return to his country."

Previously, he had blamed his son's death on the government of then Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian investigators claimed that someone had tried and failed to kill Mr Lugovoi in London with the same radioactive poison that ended Mr Litvinenko's life.

"We have opened a new criminal investigation," sources from the office of the Russian investigative committee told local media. "We have opened it in relation to the attempted murder of Lugovoi by people who have yet to be established," they said. "Lugovoi has been classified as a 'victim' in this case." As a serving MP in his native Russia Mr Lugovoi currently enjoys immunity from prosecution but that will run out if he fails to win re-election to the Russian parliament this Sunday. His new status as "a victim" in the case will add a new layer of protection for him however.

The killing had “properly been described as an act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of London” and the inquest should examine whether the killing was a “targeted assassination by an agent of a foreign state on the territory of the United Kingdom,” Ben Emmerson QC for Mrs Litvinenko, told a preliminary hearing at St Pancras coroner’s court. He said that 97 per cent of polonium 210 was produced by a reactor in Russia but the Russian state had “wholly failed in its obligation to launch an independent inquiry.” “It’s not going to happen in Russia and it never will,” he added. “For the family an inquest that doesn’t examine the question [of state involvement] would be an inquest that had failed to inquire fully into the circumstances of his death.” He said the case was of “unprecedented international sensitivity” amid allegations that the government has taken the pressure off Russia in order to ease trade relations. Dr Andrew Reid, the St Pancras coroner, agreed that he would probably widen the scope of the inquest to include such issues and asked the police, MI5 and MI6 to begin an investigation.

His widow, Marina, has been campaigning ever since for a further investigation into claims that he was killed at the behest of the Russian state - and 10 days ago was rewarded when the St Pancras coroner said he would reopen the case and commission a wide-ranging inquiry. She talked to Sally Williams about what this means for herself, her son, and her long search for the truth about her husband's death. Marina Litvinenko sits in a bar of the Strand Palace Hotel, London, and settles down to talk about the past. The past, for her, began at 8.30am on 1 Nov 2006, when she drove her 12-year-old son from their home in Muswell Hill to Kentish Town station so he could catch the train to his school, City of London. At the time, she, her husband Alexander, and their son, Anatoly, were exiled Russians living in London. Her husband was an ex-KGB officer – and an outspoken critic of the Kremlin – and the family fled from the country in 2000. In London, he worked as a consultant for MI5 and MI6 investigating organised crime in Russia. She was the family driver and usually drove him in her Mitsubishi Pinion to the tube station, and to meetings. "I was like his personal assistant," she smiles.

But that morning he was late and she had a date with some friends, so he caught the bus instead. "He had his Oyster card, and later that helped the police to find the bus he took that morning, and it was clean," she says. "There was no trace of polonium." This is significant, because that day, her husband met businessmen Andrey Lugovoi, a former KGB agent, and Dmitry Kovtun in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in London. Mr Lugovoi was later accused of slipping polonium-210 – a radioactive substance – into Litvinenko's green tea. A Kremlin spokesman dismissed the allegation as "sheer nonsense", even suggesting that Litvinenko killed himself with the polonium – either on purpose or by accident – which is why Mrs Litvinenko is so relieved there was no trace on the bus on which her husband travelled. Instead investigators tracked polonium to Mr Lugovoi's hotel room and his plane seat. Nov 1 2006 was in any case a special day for the couple – not only the sixth anniversary of their escape to London, but also the first time they were to celebrate it as the new British citizens they had become three weeks before. With their new citizenship they even had new British names: Maria and Edwin Carter; Anatoly was Anthony. Mrs Litvinenko cooked a special dinner of chicken pancakes. "My mum stayed with us three weeks before and she gave me the recipe and I saw how Sasha [Alexander] enjoyed it," she said. But that night, he felt ill and started vomiting. She worried it was the chicken pancakes, "but then I thought, it can't be, because I don't feel bad." Doctors suspected an autumn bug, but finally - after three days - he was admitted to hospital with breathing problems and a low body temperature. On Nov 20, dramatic pictures of Litvinenko in his hospital bed showed his hair had fallen out. He died three days later from the effects of radiation. He knew he'd been poisoned, says Mrs Litvinenko, but the Health Protection Agency only confirmed the cause - polonium - three hours after he died. From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of plotting his murder; the Kremlin warned such suggestions could damage relations between London and Moscow. In 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service recommended that Mr Lugovoi be charged with murder; Russia refused British requests for his extradition. Mr Lugovoi is now a Russian MP. But that was the past and almost five years after her husband died, Mrs Litvinenko is in the news again. Last week, much to her amazement, coroner Dr Andrew Reid ruled that she had the right to a reopened inquest and a new and deeper inquiry into the drama of her husband's final weeks. "It was not exactly what we expected," she says, with a wry smile. Neither the government nor the police wanted a full inquiry, she believes. She is sitting with Alex Goldfarb, her Russian co-author of The Death of a Dissident, the story of the affair, and their mood is buoyant, even though the inquest will come with a huge bill to ensure her own concerns are represented. (The inquest into the death of Princess Diana lasted six months; that into 7/7 bombings, five months.) The start date will be next year, and they've spent the morning setting up a bank account into which they'll channel any funds they can raise. Mr Lugovoi has agreed to participate via a video link. "It's unprecedented," says Mr Goldfarb, "Usually when somebody is accused of murder he is either being hunted or he is in jail." At 49, Mrs Litvinenko is gamine and poised – she was a ballroom dancing teacher in Russia and still dances once a week – and although she is polite and friendly, it is clear she has been forced into the spotlight by events and would much rather be at home with her son, now 17 and doing his A-levels. She chats about normal things like schools, her parents (still in Moscow), going to the gym, and how she frets about what to wear, like any woman. But the reality her life is curious beyond words. Her close friends now include detectives from Scotland Yard. "They saw Sasha in the last days, they met him, they interviewed him, they have a personal feeling about him," she says. David Miliband invited her to his office twice when he was foreign secretary, and was "very warm" (her favourite term of praise). And the inquest might expose the world's first ever confirmed act of nuclear terrorism. "How did a can of radioactive material which could kill thousands of people get onto the streets of London?" asks Mr Goldfarb. It may also further jeopardise relations between Russia and England. "I don't like that the case of my husband will be a problem between these two countries," she admits, "but I need to know the truth." She sees herself as an innocent who's fallen into a great international drama, a half-mad world of trade and foreign policy. "I try not to think in a global way," she says, "I am a real woman who lost her real husband and I have a real son who lost his father in a very tragic way." She met Litvinenko at her 31st birthday party in Moscow, introduced by friends. "We joked he was my present." She had never met anyone from the KGB before. "I was amazed – it was as if he wasn't from that world at all. He was so young looking, so easy-going, he didn't smoke, he didn't drink." Both were fitness freaks. "He even pretended to like ball room dancing," she says. "But he wasn't any good. He couldn't understand how real men could dance ballroom." She was pregnant within four months of their first meeting, and they married soon after, in 1994. A turning point came when Litvinenko turned against his KGB bosses, exposing what he said was an order to kill the oligarch, Boris Berezovsky. True or not, the allegation had dire consequences. Litvinenko was imprisoned for seven months in 1999. On his release, he faced new charges and they secretly left the country in 2000. "I didn't want to go, but Sasha said they would put him in prison again and there will be danger for us – he had already received some threats against our son." She reminisces happily about their early years in London, going for walks together, and how she planned to start a dancing school while her husband would teach fencing. "We felt completely safe," she says. Which is why she was so bemused when Litvinenko said he'd been poisoned. "I said it's just nonsense that somebody would try to kill you in England," she recalls, still awestruck by the strangeness of it all. She was first told about the polonium in a phone call from the police just hours after her husband died. It was midnight and she'd just got home, "They said you have 30 minutes to take everything you need and get out of the house." Her home was sealed for six months for decontamination. Mrs Litvinenko was only allowed back in wearing a full body radiation protection suit. "After two months I went into our house and when I saw the kitchen – so important for a woman – everything was still left on the table. The pieces of fruit, like bananas, were black. There were flies, insects, it looked like a horror movie." She and her son stayed with neighbours, and then moved to south west London, where they still live. She sold the family home, by now decontaminated of radiation. "It was a place Sasha loved, but I realised it was not my home any more," she said sadly. Her routine now is ballroom dancing once a week, the gym three times a week, and devoting herself to friends and her son. She has no plans to remarry although she has met someone recently. It's been a surprisingly self-enclosed life. But with the new investigation, she realises this is set to change once again. "The last five years have been very painful, but stable, but now something different starts; something not so stable," she said. "But without this process it will be difficult to say I am ready to move on."

London Times: Oleg Gordievsky, the most senior KGB agent to defect to Britain, said that the attempt to kill Mr Litvinenko had been state-sponsored.

It was carried out by a Russian friend and former colleague who had been recruited secretly in prison by the FSB, the successor to the KGB. The Italian who allegedly put poison in Mr Litvinenko's sushi "had nothing to do with it".


Mr Gordievsky, a former KGB station head in London, who still refers to the FSB by its former name, insisted that he did not know the identity of the Russian would-be killer.

But he assumed that the man was a former associate of Boris Berezovsky, the former oligarch and Yeltsin confidant, who has been granted political asylum in Britain.

"He used to be in Mr Berezovsky's entourage and was imprisoned in Moscow. Then suddenly he was released, and soon after that he became a businessman and a millionaire. It is all very suspicious. But the KGB has recruited agents in prisons and camps since the 1930s. That is how they work."

The man came to London, posing as a businessman and a friend. He met Mr Litvinenko at a hotel and put poison in his tea. That was before Mr Litvinenko had lunch at a Japanese restaurant with the Italian he knew as Mario, who had arranged to meet him because he said he had information about the murder of Ms Politkovskaya, a close friend.

"Why should this Italian do it? I know him. He is a solid, respectable man. And Sasha was already feeling unwell before the lunch. He was poisoned before he met the Italian."

Mario Scaramella, a consultant for a commission investigating FSB activities in Italy, was last night reported to be in protective custody "terrified for his life".

Mr Gordievsky, a former KGB station head in London, who still refers to the FSB by its former name, insisted that he did not know the identity of the Russian would-be killer. But he assumed that the man was a former associate of Boris Berezovsky, the former oligarch and Yeltsin confidant, who has been granted political asylum in Britain.

"He used to be in Mr Berezovsky's entourage and was imprisoned in Moscow. Then suddenly he was released, and soon after that he became a businessman and a millionaire. It is all very suspicious. But the KGB has recruited agents in prisons and camps since the 1930s. That is how they work."

Hmmm, Berezovsky? Berezovsky was mentioned twice here on ET in connection with the murder of Politkovskaya, whom we are told was an associate of Litvinenko. As for cuo bono, theories seem to be, in order of significance: Kadyrov (last Politkovskaya's investigation was into where Chechnya reconstruction money are going); enemies of Kadyrov (as he is the one most likely to benefit); Nevzlyn or Berezovsky (provocation and misguided attempt to create Gongadze-II); "concerned" citizen (Politkovskaya was not an exactly popular journalist); Putin does not come up, primarily because he personally is not threatened at all by Politkovskaya. And also The political theory has it that Politkovskaya's murder was ordered from abroad. We were the first to draw attention to this theory. A similar assumption was expressed by President Putin at a press conference in Dresden on October 10. Developments of this theory have mentioned the names of Boris Berezovsky and Leonid Nevzlin - the most prominent of the individuals Russia is trying to extradite. Both Berezovsky and Nevzlin will probably face extradition attempts for a long time to come, having to prove in foreign courts why they should not be returned to Russia. One of their primary objectives is to portray Russia as a state where people can get shot in the head for their pro-democracy convictions.

OME, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A contact who met Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian ex-spy whose poisoning has sparked accusations of a Kremlin assassination plot, said he showed him an organised crime hit-list earing his name on the day he fell ill. Mario Scaramella, who has helped Italy's parliament investigate Cold War-era Soviet espionage, said he met Litvinenko at a London sushi bar to show him emails from a mutual source warning their lives may be in danger.

The threat came from organised criminals based in St. Petersburg, possibly acting on behalf of Russia's government, Scaramella told Reuters. His source suspected the same criminals killed a Russian journalist last month.

Both dismissed the four-page warning as unfounded, he said, adding they were both accustomed to hearing of possible threats.

"I said Alex, I received an alarm in the last few days from a source that you introduced to me," Scaramella said, speaking to reporters in Rome in English.

"He said: 'It's unbelievable. Don't worry about that'." (...)

Scaramella, who describes himself as a consultant but is also an Italian judge [ huh???? ], refused to speculate who was behind the poisoning. But he said the email warned the threat was from the same criminals who killed Politkovskaya.

It included targets in Britain, Italy and elsewhere, and included the names of at least one Italian senator.

Why Litvinenko is being called a "spy"? NPR today also used "spy". He was working as investigator in Organized Crime Division of FSB (same as FBI investigator in the US context) where he got via the prison guard service. At some point he seemed to realize that his career in FSB was over, as, among other things, he was under Internal Affairs investigation for beating and torture of detainees, warrantless searches and explosive trafficking allegations. That's when he participated in political combination of Berezovsky, who at that time was one of the people effectively running the country. Berezovsky was concerned that some of the branches of the government were not enough under his control and manufactured a scandal that should have brought FSB in line.

Litvinenko and few of his fellow officers called the press conference alledging that his FSB management ordered a hit on Berezovsky. Since then courts recognized his allegations as false, but the end result was that after Berezovsky's talk with Yeltsin Organized Crime Division was disbanded and FSB got a new head (Putin, then little known).

Litvinenko got his 1 million $ for this press conference (as alledged by the officers who participated in this conference with him), was arrested following Internal Affairs investigation results and the moment he was released left for UK, where he got political (???) asylum. Courts eventually recognized him as guilty but free on probation, so at the moment he is not even wanted in Russia.

I really doubt that he was a "friend" of Politkovskaya, and contrary to NPR reporting, Goldfarb is also not a "friend", but a trobleshooter lawer for Berezovsky and also the source of this story and few of the stories below.

BTW, poison and conract hits, real or imagined, keeps poping up quite regulary around Berezovsky.

Allegation of imminent poisoning of Berezovsky by (you guessed it) FSB was one of reasons UK courts decided not to extradite Berezovsky to Russia in 2003; "Evidence" was provided by Litvinenko. I'm wondering how dependant Berezovsky's de-facto immunity from prosecution on what Litvinenko done or knows.

In the same 2003 Berezovsky and Litvinenko "stopped" contract hit on Putin. Alledged would be killers were conviniently some of the same officers that participated with Litvinenko in that press conference back in Russia. They were arrested by UK law enforcement, refused (as I understand, regular in such cases in UK) political asylum and went back to Russia.

Politkovskaya was "poisoned" in 2004, too;

Yushenko was poisoned when Berezovsky became interested in his campaign. 2 years later and Yushenko being the president, the crime (?) still not solved.

Anyone remembers story of presidential run by Ivan Rybkin? The guy was scared to hell, and did not look like it was due to FSB or Putin.

Russian ex-PM has mystery illness

Mr Gaidar was rushed to intensive care after collapsing in Dublin Former Russian acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar is being treated in a Moscow hospital amid rumours about the cause of his mystery illness. Mr Gaidar became violently ill during a visit to Ireland last week, and his daughter Maria told the BBC that doctors believe he was poisoned.

Irish police are investigating the claims, as he recovers in Moscow.

Mr Gaidar, 50, fell ill a day after Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning in London.