A Breakthrough in the Litvinenko Case | Harper's Magazine

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A Breakthrough in the Litvinenko Case


This morning’s Sunday Telegraph includes an important breakthrough in the investigation into the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen who previously had served as a KGB agent and who was fatally poisoned with a dose of Polonium-210. The Telegraph reports:

In the first eyewitness account of the moment the former Russian spy was consigned to death, Norberto Andrade describes how, as he tried to serve drinks to Mr Litvinenko and the former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, he was deliberately distracted in order, he claims, to allow the killer to add radioactive polonium to a pot of green tea.

Mr Andrade, 67, the head barman of the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel in London, says investigators later found polonium contamination on a picture above where Mr Litvinenko was sitting, supporting the notion that the poison had been administered by a spray. Recounting the extraordinary events of November 1 last year, Mr Andrade, who has worked at the hotel for 27 years, told The Sunday Telegraph: “When I was delivering gin and tonic to the table, I was obstructed. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it seemed very deliberate to create a distraction. It made it difficult to put the drink down.

“It was the only moment when the situation seemed unfriendly and something went on at that point. I think the polonium was sprayed into the teapot. There was contamination found on the picture above where Mr Litvinenko had been sitting and all over the table, chair and floor, so it must have been a spray.” Mr Andrade, from Brentwood, Essex, also revealed just how close he came to becoming an unintended second victim of the assassin. Shortly after the three men left the bar, Mr Andrade cleared the table. It was then that he noticed the contents of the teapot had turned a “funny colour”.

New Scotland Yard believes that Kovtun and Lugovoi are covert agents of the Russian FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, which Vladimir Putin headed before he became Russian Prime Minister and then, in only a few weeks, succeeded Boris Yeltsin as president.

Russia has refused British requests that Kovtun and Lugovoi be extradicted.

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