A second man has tested positive for radiation poisoning.
LONDON (Reuters) – British scientists probing the death of Alexander Litvinenko said on Friday a second man had been poisoned by the same type of radiation that killed the former Russian spy.
Mario Scaramella, an Italian contact of Litvinenko’s, met the Russian at a London sushi restaurant on November 1, the day he fell ill.
Some media reports had suggested Scaramella might be a suspect in the Russian’s poisoning, but the latest twist appeared to explode that theory and provided no clearer explanation of who was behind the death.
Litvinenko, who also met two Russians in a London hotel on the same day, believed the Kremlin had ordered his death — an accusation dismissed as ridiculous by Moscow.
“We are confirming that one further person who was in direct contact with Mr Litvinenko has been found to have a significant quantity of polonium 210 in their body. This is being investigated further in hospital,” a spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said.
“There is likely to be concern for their immediate health.”
Polonium 210 is the same radioactive isotope that poisoned Litvinenko, who died a slow and agonising death in a London hospital.
And now Fox News is announcing that a British hotel is being evacuated for radiation tests. The hotel, the Ashdown Park, may be the same one that Scaramella stayed at while in London. This is getting really strange and unpredictable, like something out of the Twilight Zone.
Update: Fox News is now reporting that an adult member of Alexander Litvinenko’s family has tested positive as well.
Was there a secret hit squad? According to smuggled letters from Russia, yes there is.
Detectives are investigating letters smuggled out of Russia purporting to show the existence of a secret squad set up to target poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko and others.
Scotland Yard has been passed copies of two letters apparently penned in jail by former Russian intelligence officer Mikhail Trepashkin, in one of which Mr Litvinenko is warned that both he and his family are at risk.
Mr Litvinenko’s London friend Alex Goldfarb said scans of the letters came into his possession on Thursday and he passed them to Scotland Yard.
Mr Trepashkin, who worked for the KGB’s successor the FSB until 1997, was tried in 2004, accused of being a British spy and passing secret information to Mr Litvinenko and his close friend the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, both exiled in London.
Mr Litvinenko, who died a week ago from radiation poisoning, believed he had been murdered for criticising Russian president Vladimir Putin. A special post-mortem examination is taking place on his body at the Royal London Hospital. Traces of the radioactive substance polonium 210, which was found in a sample of Mr Litvinenko’s urine, have since been detected at 12 sites, including British Airways planes.
The letters include one to Mr Litvinenko which he never received, as well as one to his friend Mr Goldfarb. In the message to Mr Litvinenko on November 20, Mr Trepashkin recalls a conversation in August 2002 in which he warned Mr Litvinenko – already living in London – that he and his family were at risk from the FSB.
Mr Trepashkin tells his friend that he had met an FSB contact near a railway station in Russia who told him that a “very serious group” had been set up, which “will knock out all those associated with Berezovsky and Litvinenko”.
The FSB is the new KGB. New initials, just as evil.
Update: Mario Scaramella was not only in contact with the polonium-210, but he’s also been poisoned with a significant amount, making the British authorities to believe that he was deliberately targeted as well:
Police fear that the murder of a former Kremlin spy may have been part of a double killing plot after a second man was taken to hospital last night with radiation poisoning.
Toxicologists confirmed yesterday that Mr Scaramella had also been contaminated by a “significant” amount of deadly polonium-210. The level leads them to suspect that it was more than he could have ingested from simple physical contact with Litvinenko.
Radiological experts also say that the amount is more than he could have inhaled from being close to Litvinenko had he coughed or sneezed. Cobra, the Government’s emergency planning committee, met after learning of Mr Scaramella’s contamination.
Doctors say it may be several weeks before the Italian academic knows the long-term effects of the contamination and whether he is likely to develop cancer. Mr Scaramella has ingested nothing like the amount that Litvinenko did, which explains why he has not shown the same acute symptoms, but doctors say that there is a longer-term risk of him developing cancer.
One health expert told The Times last night: “There is no known way of getting rid of polonium-210 from the body, so it does cause long-term damage.” Mr Scaramella met the former KGB colonel on November 1 at the Itsu sushi bar in London that the men used as a rendezvous.