Kremlin Aide: Spy Poisoning May Be Anti-Russian Ploy
A top Kremlin aide says an elaborate effort to mar Russia's image in the world may be behind the radioactive poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko and the murder a month earlier of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
"I think everything is linked and planned against Russia," said Igor Shuvalov, an economic aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is linked, he said, to "a huge wave of criticism that is appearing." Shuvalov, who is in Washington this week on a diplomatic mission, said he did not want to say more because a criminal investigation was proceeding. But, he added, "we had nothing to do with Litvinenko."
Shuvalov said that just as Scotland Yard decided yesterday to treat the Litvinenko death as a murder, Russian prosecutors also opened a criminal case. He said that the Russian government "will assist in any possible manner" in the investigation and that it had arranged for a room for British investigators to question Dmitri Kovtun, a Russian businessman who had met with Litvinenko soon before his death and is in a Moscow hospital undergoing tests.
Shuvalov said the interview would need to take place "in accordance with Russian procedures, which means Russian officials should be present when they meet."
"We will cooperate in any possible manner, and we need to do it, because we want to close the case as soon as possible so we can announce to the public what happened in reality," said Shuvalov. "Because if you read all the papers, especially in Great Britainall of them are funny."
Shuvalov said he had read jokes about Litvinenko's alleged visit to a sushi bar before he fell victim to poisoning by the radioactive substance polonium.
"It's funny on the one hand, but on the other it's a very serious case," he said.
Shuvalov, who served as Putin's chief representative to top-level meetings of the Group of Eight developed nations in St. Petersburg in July, met with a small group of reporters to discuss Russia's view of the successes of that summit but acknowledged, "I think you will have more questions about something else, not about the G-8."
Shuvalov also said he met with U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday on "different sensitive issues." The only subject that he would confirm was discussed was the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions; he said his country was concerned because it shares a border with Iran and sees perils similar to those Russian officials foresaw before the United States launched its war in Iraq in 2003.
"For you, Iran is somewhere like Iraq," Shuvalov said. "For us, it is more dangerous."
"We think the Iran case is a very difficult one. And if you want to get a real result, it's not going to be through imposing sanctions or bombing. We think dealing with the issue of nonproliferation, we should all be more cautious," he said.
"For instance, when the campaign in Iraq started, Russians were always saying it's not easy at all, because you have Sunnis and Shiites, and you will not end up with a great success very quickly," Shuvalov said. "And now again, we think we need to speak with Iran. We don't believe if you start bombing them tomorrow, or if you impose very strict sanctions, you will be successful."