In a page-turning narrative that reads like a thriller, an award-winning journalist exposes the troubling truth behind the world’s first act of nuclear terrorism.
On November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko sipped tea in London’s Millennium Hotel. Hours later the Russian émigré and former intelligence officer, who was sharply critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin, fell ill and within days was rushed to the hospital. Fatally poisoned by a rare radioactive isotope slipped into his drink, Litvinenko issued a dramatic deathbed statement accusing Putin himself of engineering his murder. Alan S. Cowell, then London Bureau Chief of the New York Times, who covered the story from its inception, has written the definitive story of this assassination and of the profound international implications of this first act of nuclear terrorism.
Who was Alexander Litvinenko? What had happened in Russia since the end of the cold war to make his life there untenable and in severe jeopardy even in England, the country that had granted him asylum? And how did he really die? The life of Alexander Litvinenko provides a riveting narrative in its own right, culminating in an event that rang alarm bells among western governments at the ease with which radioactive materials were deployed in a major Western capital to commit a unique crime. But it also evokes a wide range of other issues: Russia's lurch to authoritarianism, the return of the KGB to the Kremlin, the perils of a new cold war driven by Russia's oil riches and Vladimir Putin's thirst for power.
Cowell provides a remarkable and detailed reconstruction both of how Litvinenko died and of the issues surrounding his murder. Drawing on exclusive reporting from Britain, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United States, he traces in unprecedented detail the polonium trail leading from Russia's closed nuclear cities through Moscow and Hamburg to the Millenium Hotel in central London. He provides the most detailed step-by-step explanation of how and where polonium was found; how the assassins tried on several occasions to kill Litvinenko; and how they bungled a conspiracy that may have had more targets than Litvinenko himself.
With a colorful cast that includes the tycoons, spies, and killers who surrounded Litvinenko in the roller-coaster Russia of the 1990s, as well as the émigrés who flocked to London in such numbers that the British capital earned the sobriquet “Londongrad,” this book lays out the events that allowed an accused killer to escape prosecution in a delicate diplomatic minuet that helped save face for the authorities in London and Moscow.
A masterful work of investigative reporting, The Terminal Spy offers unprecedented insight into one of the most chilling true stories of our time.
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|Title of History eBook: The Terminal Spy|
|Release Date: 08-05-2008|
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|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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The Terminal Spy
Broken homes, broken empire
Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was born on December 4, 1962, in a hospital in Voronezh, 300 miles south of Moscow, a university town where his father was a medical student specializing in pediatrics. He arrived one month before term. He weighed 2.4 kilograms, around six pounds. His mother, Nina, remembered a difficult birth. She fretted he might not survive. Then a woman in another bed in her ward at the Soviet-era hospital told her that all eight month babies became famous-an adage that noone would deny in Litvinenko's case, though not in the manner his mother would have forecast or preferred. Even so, who could have imagined that a child of the U.S.S.R would secure renown in such a bizarre manner, so far from home?
In 1962, Nikita Krushchev was in power in Moscow and the Soviet empire spanned a half a globe, from central Asia to the Baltic and the Pacific, its satellite states patrolling the line that divided Europe. The Soviets had been the first to put a man in space-Yuri Gargarin-in 1961, a huge propaganda victory over the United States, challenging Americans with the shocking implication that communism, progress and technology were not incompatible. This sprawling, secretive empire was not shy of confronting American power. Litvinenko was born in the year of the Cuban missile crisis that pushed the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. True, Krushchev had offered a kind of liberalization after the death of Josef Stalin, permitting the publication of the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and famously decrying the Stalinist cult of the individual. But Krushchev also led a muscular drive to cement Soviet influence. He