Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review

British inspectors know who poisoned Alexander Litvinenko¼br /> Berezovsky is sure he will not be exchanged for Litvinenko case participants
Russian diplomat’s mysterious death possibly related to murder of Litvinenko
Billionaire ex-KGB officer reportedly denies he told someone tried to poison him like Litvinenko
Russia’s Federal Security Service head lands at South Pole during Antarctic expedition
Protestants spy, Russia’s Federal Security Service Pskov branch chief charges
Practice of extortion at Kavkaz checkpoint stops after FSB intervention – but for how long?
Abkhaz security service head leads paramilitary forces to threaten Georgian population in Gali district
Security service detains man in connection with alleged coup plot probe in Armenia
Turkmenistan to commission new building for Ministry of National Security in 2007
Broader powers in state security sphere given to Latvian Prime Minister
Archbishop Wielgus resigns after Communist secret police scandal
Czechoslovak Communist security police cards discovered with Charter 77 first signatures
Former state security services head, generals await verdicts, set to go on trial in The Hague
Mossad-KGB double agent Zeev Avni dies at 86

British inspectors know who poisoned Alexander Litvinenko

Scotland Yard emblem  

Inspectors of the Scotland Yard have calculated the murderers of the former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Alexander Litvinenko, newspaper Daily Mirror reports. Their names are not publicised by Scotland Yard and the only thing that is known – these people have been interrogated by Scotland Yard through their Russian colleagues in Moscow before the New Year. They have recognized that they met with Litvinenko in London, but rejected their participation in murder. Both the western and Russian mass media assume, that it is a question of businessmen Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun.
An unnamed representative of the Scotland Yard is quoted by the paper as saying that “We are absolutely assured of that who supervised over the poisoning, where and how. Both these persons declare that they themselves have been poisoned and are victims of a plot. It is also considered in Moscow that we have paid attention not to the right people”.
The British side is assured that Russia will not give out the main suspects, radio Ekho Moskvy marks.

Berezovsky is sure he will not be exchanged for Litvinenko case participants
Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky living in exile in London is sure he will not be exchanged for Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, involved in the murder case of the Russian ex-security service officer Alexander Litvinenko. Berezovsky made the statement in an interview to the Ekho Moskvy radio. “The British legislation does not give an opportunity of Exchange. British authorities do everything only officially. The British cannot settle the issue under the table.”
Earlier, Member of the Russian State Duma Security Committee Gennady Gudkov supposed that such exchange could take place, news agency Regnum reports. He said that Moscow was hindering second questioning of Kovtun and Lugovoi by Scotland Yard officers in order to have Boris Berezovsky, Akhmed Zakayev and other prominent political emigrants.

Russian diplomat’s mysterious death possibly related to murder of Litvinenko

  Igor Ponomarev

German weekly magazine Focus in its latest issue has paid its readers’ attention to the fact that shortly before poisoning of the former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Alexander Litvinenko in London, a Russian diplomat had died at similar mysterious circumstances.
Last autumn Igor Ponomarev, 41, representative of Russia in the International Maritime Organization (IMO), died in the British capital October 30, 2006, after he collapsed at home after a night at the opera.¼br /> Focus writes that the diplomat was attending a theatre performance when suddenly felt badly, and a friend revealed he had been “gasping for water” — a symptom of radiation poisoning.
The Russian had drunk three litres of water, then had died. British daily The Sun writing on this mysterious death today, cites Ponomarev’s friend who said that “Igor’s wife was going to call an ambulance, but when she entered the room he was dead. He had fallen from the sofa and hit his face.”
A heart attack was declared the reason of his death, though Ponomarev had no UK post-mortem or inquest due diplomatic status and his body was quickly flown to Russia. The pal said Ponomarev’s family were shocked as he had no heart problems. And they were puzzled by his link to “intelligence consultant” Scaramella, who met Litvinenko the day he was poisoned, according to The Sun.
Sudden thirst is not known as a symptom of heart attack, according to Dietrich Andresen from the German Society of Cardiologists. Experts believe the thirst was consistent with poisoning by polonium-210, the radioactive substance that killed Litvinenko. In opinion of experts-toxicologists, Gabriela Gerber-Zupan from the Poisoning Emergency Centre in Munich, told the Focus, it could be thallium (it was firstly assumed as a cause of Alexander Litvinenko’s poisoning, too) that might cause similar thirst. Ponomarev’s death came hours before he was due to meet former KGB agent Litvinenko’s Italian contact Mario Scaramella with whom he wanted to go to the appointment with the Russian ex-security officer, according to the late diplomat’s relatives.
Ponomarev’s relatives, according to the Focus, do not exclude that the destruction of the Russian diplomat is connected with the poisoning case of the former FSB officer.
Scotland Yard did not launch investigation of the reasons of death of the Russian diplomat as, according to its spokesman, nobody had applied about its excitation.

Billionaire ex-KGB officer reportedly denies he told someone tried to poison him like Litvinenko

Alexander Lebedev  

Member of the Russian State Duma, Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB operative and a banking billionaire, said in an interview to British media that says he believed his food might have been poisoned in a Moscow restaurant about eight months ago. His home was checked for radiation but no trace was found and he recovered, news agency Regnum reports.
According to latest issue of The Sunday Times, Lebedev claimed that there had been an attempt on his life analogical as against Litvinenko. The member of the Russian parliament had told in an interview for the Tatler magazine that doctors failed to find what caused the poisoning when he felt ill. He was delivered to hospital and had managed to survive although he lost 6 kg of his weight.
Late yesterday Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported, referring to Lebedev, that he reportedly had denied he had never spoken on an attempt on his life, similar to Litvinenko case. Talking by phone from Amsterdam to the news agency, Lebedev said he told the magazine that he himself had had a strange story, and he was losing weight all the time. He claimed he had not even mentioned Litvinenko’s name in this connection. According to RIA Novosti, Lebedev said the British paper had used the interview, given in October, long time before Litvinenko’s death and was devoted to questions of other character. Lebedev said the interview would be published by the Tatler magazine only next Thursday.
As RSN informs, Lebedev was astonished at how The Sunday Times presented abstracts from his interview to Tatler magazine. “I was sneering at various superstitions and witchcraft concerning the fact that some businessmen apply such methods in dealing with their competitors. In this connection, we spoke that there is a method like poisoning rivals,” he explained. According to Lebedev, he never said that he could have been poisoned by a radioactive substance, in the way like ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko was.
Lebedev in the past was a KGB Lieutenant-Colonel, retired in 1991; he worked for the KGB in London in the 1980s, earning about £700. After he left government service, he worked as a banking consultant and later bought his own small bank, which thrived on his shrewd knowledge of the bonds and derivatives markets.
Up to date, he takes the 23rd position in the Forbes ratings of Russia’s richest people. Lebedev bought a stake in the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, for which slain reporter Anna Politkovskaya worked.
Despite the risk of further attempts in his life, Lebedev is bullish about the need to confront the “layer of mafia corruption” in Russian government. He does not oppose President Vladimir Putin, but wants judicial reforms to help prosecute corrupt officials and businessmen.
Lebedev owns 31% of Aeroflot, the Russian airline. According to Forbes magazine, he is the 194th richest person in the world with a net worth of about $3.5 billion. He is a close friend of Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, and a member of the Russian parliament.

Russia’s Federal Security Service head lands at South Pole during Antarctic expedition

  Nikolai Patrushev 

Two Russian Mi-8 helicopters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) have reached the South Pole for the first time in history, news agencies are reporting. They landed in the Antarctic’s center at an altitude of 2,835 meters yesterday morning, according to ITAR-TASS. The helicopters made leap from South America across the Drake Strait, covering 4,000 kilometers and landed at a place where meridians converge, next to the American Antarctic station Amundsen-Scott.
The helicopters were carrying members of a Russian Antarctic expedition, including Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Patrushev, Interfax reports, referring to Vladimir Strugatsky, spokesman for the Russian Polar Explorers’ Association. It was one of the most crucial stages of a special air expedition, conducted in line with the 52nd Russian Antarctic campaign, the spokesman said.
Russian State Duma member and known Russian polar Explorer, Artur Chilingarov, heading the expedition, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, his First Deputy and head of the Russian FSB Border Service Vladimir Pronichev as well as head of the World Meteorological Organisation and director of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, Alexander Bednitsky, met American winterers there, agencies’ reports say.

Protestants spy, Russia’s Federal Security Service Pskov branch chief charges
In an interview with a local newspaper, Georgy Drachev, head of the Pskov Region’s FSB (heir to the KGB’s domestic section), accused Protestants of being spies and “destructive” cults, and encouraged citizens to call the FSB with denunciations of their activities.
Drachev told the local newspaper Pskovskaya Pravda that foreign religious organizations often “approach families of military personnel, relatives of officials who work for intelligence agencies” and have access to state secrets. “Many of these so-called ‘preachers’ were trained in camps by Western intelligence agencies,” Drachev claimed.
He presented an enemies list: “Religious organizations that are represented in the Pskov region (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Baptists, Adventists, Methodists, and others) technically operate legally,” he allowed. However, he then appealed to members of the public who come into contact with these “destructive” faiths, or whose relatives become their adherents and thereby lose contact with their families, become mentally ill or have their property taken from them, to “get in touch with law enforcement agencies.”

Practice of extortion at Kavkaz checkpoint stops after FSB intervention – but for how long?
Renewed bribery at the sadly well-known Kavkaz checkpoint located on the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia has stopped again after the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia intervened, online paper Prague Watchdog writes.
The practice of collecting exorbitant tribute from people wishing to pass through it had continued almost until this past summer when policemen, apparently from the Kirov region, were deployed at the checkpoint. At that moment everything changed and the bribe-taking stopped. However, they were replaced in October. Policemen from Kursk who used to serve here at the very beginning of the war arrived, and it all started again.
Drivers’ repeated complaints were sent to the State Prosecutor’s Office, to the Russian Interior Ministry and finally last week of December, 2006, these efforts brought results. Representatives of the Federal Security Service arrived at the checkpoint and made an inspection. One of the FSB officers remained there on duty for several days, warning each driver against paying any bribes to the policemen and marking that if the policemen create artificial problems, drivers have a perfect right to drive through without stopping, Prague Watchdog cites an unidentified driver.
According to an unnamed human rights defender, the main reason for the bribe-taking is the juridical illiteracy of the local population. It’s most likely a peculiar war syndrome from the early years of the so-called „counter-terrorist operation“, during which law enforcers at checkpoints arbitrarily detained people and subjected them to torture and insults, Prague Watchdog underlines. Some people disappeared without trace, while others were freed for ransom, the online site expands. Even now Chechen residents fear and distrust law enforcers, seeing them more as a source of possible danger than as representatives of law and order who are summoned to defend their rights, the interviewed human rights defender is convinced.

Abkhaz security service head leads paramilitary forces to threaten Georgian population in Gali district
De facto Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh announced that Georgian secret services had organized several terrorist attacks in Abkhazia these days killing Abkhaz police officers, Russian news agency Interfax reported. Bagapsh said Sukhumi saw this as a pretext for Georgia to launch aggression against Abkhazia, that’s why he had put the Abkhaz troops on alert “to deal with provocations from Georgia.”
Abkhaz officials blamed Georgian security services for the killing of three Abkhaz police officials in the Gali district, alleging that Georgians in the Gali district had been hiding them Georgian security officers in their homes before the series of murders took place, online paper The Messenger reports. In the meantime, Abkhaz paramilitary units commenced an investigation, organizing raids in the Gali district- interrogating its Georgian population and according to various reports taking as many as 48 into custody. According to media reports, about 150 Abkhaz paramilitary forces led by the head of Bagapsh security service Erik Vouba even threatened the Georgian population in Gali district with ethnic cleansing.
Opposition member of Georgian parliament from Democratic Front Faction Zviad Dzidziguri even called on the Georgian President to send armed forces to Gali to protect the Georgians there. Georgian State Minister for Conflict Settlement Merab Antadze told reporters that “the aggravation of the situation in the Gali district at the end of December occurred because of turf wars between various Abkhazian criminal business groups.”

Security service detains man in connection with alleged coup plot probe in Armenia

Zhirair Sefilian  

Security officers in Armenia have detained a man in connection with an alleged coup plot by opposition activists, online paper reports. Vaan Aronian was arrested at his home in the village of Lusatar in western Armenia, where security officers found weapons and ammunition including guns, grenade launchers and a shoulder-fired missile launcher, the National Security Service said in a statement.
It said the detention was linked to a probe that led to the arrest in last month of Zhirair Sefilian, a Lebanese citizen and a veteran of the 1988-1994 war in the disputed enclave of Upper Karabakh, who heads the Association of Armenian Volunteers, and another activist of the group, Vadan Malkhasian. The two are accused of plotting a coup, making public demands for the government’s ouster, and possessing illegal weapons — charges they have denied. Members of the Association of Armenian Volunteers have said the arrests were part of an attempt by the authorities to stifle dissent in the run-up to parliamentary elections next year. A court in mid-December ordered Sefilian and Malkhasian to be held in jail for two months as the investigation continues.

Turkmenistan to commission new building for Ministry of National Security in 2007
The building of the Academy of Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan is included in the list of significant social facilities that are to be commissioned in the Turkmen capital in the run up to State Flag Day of Turkmenistan (19 February 2007), official web site writes. There are 16 large facilities exceeding $300 million on the list, including Cultural Centre of Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great, the State Border Service of Turkmenistan building, and an administrative high-rise building for employees of the Central Office of State Tax Service.
On the whole, 80 new facilities – scheduled for commissioning in 2007 — are under construction in the capital city of the country.

Broader powers in state security sphere given to Latvian Prime Minister
The Latvian government today has made changes to a number of laws, regulating the sphere of state security, having allocated the country’s Prime Minister wider functions in his work with the security services, news agency LETA reports.
At the same time the government has postponed consideration of changes in the law on operative activity that provided that operative actions concerning the higher state officials, having access to state secrets, could be realized only with the sanction of the Prosecutor General. Amendments to the laws have been adopted by way of the 81st article of the Constitution, resolving to the government in the period between parliamentary sessions to adopt the rules which are valid as the law, LETA notes.
Necessity of changes in the law on operative activity was motivated by the fact that currently there is no special regulation of operative actions in the legislation against persons who directly are engaged in development and realization of a state security policy, and also against officials, having access to top secret state objects. At the same time legislation contains special regulation of some remedial actions concerning the mentioned officials.

Archbishop Wielgus resigns after Communist secret police scandal

  Stanislaw Wielgus

Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, who had been appointed the new head of the Warsaw Catholic Archdiocese in Poland, dramatically resigned yesterday morning, less than an hour before he was due to be installed in the city’s historic cathedral. Instead of formally sworn in as Archbishop of Warsaw Wielgus told the gathered crowd of dignitaries for the special mass ceremony that he was resigning, Euronews reported. The Pope accepted his resignation, according to Radio Polonia. The decision was reportedly a result of negotiations at the Vatican level.
As AIA already reported, firm findings by a church commission showed that Wielgus had collaborated with the secret police of Poland’s Communist regime on numerous occasions. Until yesterday he maintained, against testimony from many others, that his actions were civic and had not endangered others. Earlier he had denied claims of collaboration.
According to some sources, it was Pope Benedict personally, who suggested that archbishop Wielgus step down after finding out that he did not reveal the whole truth in his recent statements to the Vatican about his past collaboration with Poland’s communist regime, Reuters reports.
Archbishop Wielgus made an apology in a special statement to the Warsaw diocese, admitting, in effect, that he has lied in recent days over allegations of collaboration with the Communist secret services. The Archbishop — one of the most senior positions in the Polish Catholic Church — confessed he collaborated with the hated Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, Poland’s secret police for about 20 years from the 1960s. He had previously denied doing this. In a statement given earlier last week, he said he had talked to the Communist secret police in order to be allowed to travel abroad but denied being a secret informer, radio notes. He said he had not carried out any spy missions and had not done any harm to anyone with his words or actions. Archbishop also said he has informed the Pope of this chapter in his life, which he said included a promise to collaborate but never resulted in informing on anyone.
The Church commission, which studied secret police documents, acknowledged that the archbishop had spied for the Communist secret services, saying that there was sufficient evidence to confirm that he was a willing informer.
According to the Catholic daily Nasz Dziennik, the media turmoil over the case of archbishop Wielgus is a way to distract attention from the fact that the media themselves are full of past communist collaborators still working and influencing the public opinion to the present day.
Wielgus, who for weeks denied working for the hated Communist secret service, stepped down after evidence against him grew too extensive, outstripping even what many church colleagues assumed: Over 20 years, Wielgus met with secret police more than 50 times, took three days of secret agent training, and signed at least two documents promising to spy for secret police on trips abroad, according to the well-respected Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

Czechoslovak Communist security police cards discovered with Charter 77 first signatures
Czech historians have discovered 242 cards with the original signatures of the first supporters of the Charter 77 human rights movement launched 30 years ago, Prague-based daily Lidove noviny reported.
The cards were part of the file the Communist state security police (StB) kept on the initiative. They will now be displayed on the internet site of the Libri prohibiti library, the paper said. StB first wanted to use the cards as evidence in a possible trial of the signatories, according to the CTK. The file was eventually closed and ended up in the archives, Lidove noviny noted.

Former state security services head, generals await verdicts, set to go on trial in The Hague
Former Serbian State Security Service, or SDB, chief Jovica Stanisic is one of 49 detainees from former Yugoslavia currently in The Hague, among them 13 await verdicts and 10 are set to go on trial, news agency Beta reports.
The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), began 2007 with the conclusion of the “Vukovar Three” and Milan Martic trials. The trials of former Republika Srpska army general Dragomir Milosevic, indicted for war crimes against civilians in Sarajevo in 1994-95, and Vojislav Seselj will begin early this year. Trials against Milan Milutinovic, former Serbian president, five indictees for crimes in Kosovo, eight officers of the Republika Srpska Army and six Bosnian Croats accused of crimes against Muslims are in progress.
Former State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic and his side-kick Franko Simatovic a.k.a. Frenki, both accused of crimes against non-Serbian civilians in Croatia and Bosnia, are on temporary release until June, when their trials are due to commence, Beta notes. Stanisic graduated from the Belgrade University School of Political Sciences International Department as an average student. Right after graduation he entered the service; first as an operative, later as the operations chief in the Belgrade SDB. Step by step — without stumbling or excelling — he went from the SDB’s 2nd department to the service’s deputy chief. During the first days of Milosevic’s reign, he replaced Zoran Janackovic as head of the SDB. Since the start of the war and demonstrations in March, 1991, where Stanisic is reported to have played major roles, he became known as “the closest to the pharaoh”. He was entrusted with almost all covert operations in Croatia and Bosnia-from arms supplies to drafting plans of action. Yugoslav Army commander-in-chief Momcilo Perisic, Bosnian Army commander Rasim Delic and former Police Minister of Republika Srpska Mico Stanisic have also been temporarily released and are awaiting their trials. Several trials are expected to commence in the first half of 2007, namely against Croatian generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, and against former KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) commander Ramush Haradinaj, accused of crimes against Serbs. 13 out of 49 detainees are awaiting verdicts in The Hague and 24 are on first-instance trials. Eight convicts are awaiting transfer to countries where they will serve their sentences, among them Republika Srpska army general Stanislav Galic, who has been handed a life imprisonment sentence.

Mossad-KGB double agent Zeev Avni dies at 86 

Zeev Avni  

Zeev Avni, who was involved in one of Israel’s most secret espionage affairs, died last week at age 86, daily Haaretz reported yesterday. Avni, a Mossad agent, was arrested in April 1956 on suspicion of being a KGB agent. It emerged that while he was cultivating former Nazis employed as military advisers by Egypt’s army for the Mossad, he was also serving as a long-term Soviet mole.
Avni was born Wolf Goldstein in 1921, in Riga, Latvia, to social activist parents who migrated to Germany and later to Switzerland. In 1942, after serving in the Swiss army, he was recruited to Soviet intelligence by a Czech refugee named Karl Vibrel. In 1948, Goldstein immigrated to Israel; he changed his name to the Hebrew Zeev Avni, and began sending his Soviet operators important material about the Foreign Ministry, weapons sales to Israel and secret codes.
In 1950 Avni joined the Foreign Ministry, and in 1952 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Israeli embassy in Brussels. He contacted Vibrel in Moscow and resumed working for Soviet intelligence, Haaretz writes. While in Brussels, Avni served as a courier and recruiter for the Paris branch of the Mossad. His relations with both the Mossad and his Soviet operators continued after he was assigned to Israel’s diplomatic mission in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In April 1956 he returned to Israel and asked Mossad chief Issar Harel for work. Harel became suspicious, and Avni was arrested and interrogated by the Shin Bet. When his double life was eventually exposed, Avni was tried in secret and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.
The affair was a closely guarded secret, and leaked to the media only at the beginning of the 1990s.
At that point when he learned that Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev had denounced Stalin’s crimes he began cooperating with the Mossad. He was released in 1965.
Avni is the only documented Soviet spy who penetrated the Israeli secret intelligence service.

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