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December 4, 2006
From Russia with love (III)
Three great new pieces up on Timesonline(UK). Links to eah article provided by the numbers.
1. FORMER bodyguard to President Vladimir Putin was murdered with a poison that produced symptoms remarkably similar to those of Alexander Litvinenko it emerged yesterday, writes Jonathan Calvert.
Roman Tsepov died aged 42 in 2004 after suffering severe radiation sickness brought on by a mystery substance he had ingested with food or drink.
The case suggests that use of radioactive poisons - similar to the polonium-210 that killed Litvinenko - may be more widespread than previously thought.
The nature of the poison is still a subject of speculation. Some reports in Russia say he was given a huge dose of a drug normally used to combat leukaemia and other cancers."
2 ."Trained killers of the old school
ON the day Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned, the Italian defence consultant Mario Scaramella handed him documents that named a private Russian security agency called Dignity and Honour as a possible threat to his life, writes John Follain.
At first sight, the Moscow-based organisation apparently has all the credentials for committing skulduggery.
Headed by Colonel Valentin Velichko, a former KGB officer, it offers for hire ex-KGB spies including Spetsnaz-trained killers and experts in placing listening devices.
It boasts close links to the FSB (the Federal Security Service, the former KGB), and the Foreign Intelligence Service (the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, or SVR). President Vladimir Putin is said to be an admirer.
"They are old-fashioned spies who couldn't give up the game," a Russian security source said. "Technically, they are all retired. But most people see them as an extension of Putin's secret service."
3 ."Curse of the Moscow bombs
Many like Litvinenko who probed Putin's war on Chechnya are dead, writes Mark Franchetti in Moscow
The series of bomb attacks on apartment blocks in September 1999 claimed 300 lives and brought terror to the streets of Moscow and two other Russian cities.
Unknown terrorists had rented accommodation on the ground floor of the apartment blocks and filled them with explosives which destroyed the buildings.
Hundreds of dead and injured were plucked from the rubble as the attacks continued over many days and more than 30,000 buildings were searched in Moscow as panic took hold.
The Kremlin pointed the finger at rebels in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. It used the blasts to justify a new wave of "anti-terrorist" operations and, a few weeks later, troops were sent back into Chechnya for a second time.
But doubts have persisted about the Kremlin's official version of events. Sceptics have argued that Chechen rebels had nothing to gain from planting the bombs. The Chechens had won the first war in 1996 and had already gained de facto independence.
The new war, however, benefited one man: Vladimir Putin, now Russian president. At the time he had only recently been appointed prime minister and was a little known figure among the Russian electorate"