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Litvinenko's Russia - Exclusive: The book Putin banned

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  • Zafar Khan
    Litvinenko s Russia - Exclusive: The book Putin banned Assassination, embezzlement and paranoia. These are the hallmarks of life in Putin s Russia, according
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2007
      Litvinenko's Russia - Exclusive: The book Putin banned

      Assassination, embezzlement and paranoia. These are
      the hallmarks of life in Putin's Russia, according to
      the murdered journalist Alexander Litvinenko. His
      explosive account of state-sponsored anarchy - banned
      by the Kremlin - is now published in the West for the
      first time. What price freedom, he asks, if our
      leaders are complicit in terror?
      Published: 22 January 2007


      Freelance conspiratorial military operations groups,
      consisting of former and current members of special
      armed forces units and the structures of law
      enforcement, began to be set up in Russia in the

      Russia has about 30 state departments of armed law
      enforcement, and military operations sections were set
      up within each of them. It is hard to say whether this
      development was deliberately organised or spontaneous.
      It is, however, obvious that the FSB - Russia's
      Federal Security Services - tries to have its own
      people everywhere and, even if it does not always
      organise the groups in the formal sense of the word,
      it has controlled their activity, to a greater or
      lesser degree from the very beginning.

      The story of the establishment in the Maritime
      Territory, in the Russian far east, of the group
      headed by the brothers Alexander and Sergei Larionov
      is an instructive example.

      In the late 1980s, Alexander and Sergei Larionov were
      assigned to work in one of the largest production
      associations in Vladivostok, named Vostoktransflot.
      Once there, Sergei Larionov rapidly became the head of
      the association's Communist Youth Organisation. When
      the privatisation of the association began, the
      Larionov brothers somehow managed to find enough money
      to buy, either in person or through their
      representatives, a large block of shares in
      Vostoktransflot. Then they registered a security
      service at the company under the name of System SB.
      This became the basis for the most powerful and
      violent organised criminal group in the history of the
      Maritime Territory.

      The Larionov brothers' men toured the military bases
      of the Pacific Fleet, approaching the commanders, or
      their deputies for personnel matters, and telling them
      they were hiring men due for transfer to the reserve
      for work in the special units of System SB, which
      dealt with the fight against organised crime. So after
      they were demobilised, members of military sabotage
      groups went to work for the Larionovs. Their group was
      structured along the same lines as the GRU, with its
      own intelligence and counter-intelligence sections,
      its own "cleaners", its own surveillance brigades,
      explosives specialists and analysts. State-of-the-art
      equipment was bought in Japan: radio scanners that
      could intercept pager messages and radio-telephone
      conversations, "bugs", night-vision devices, and
      directional microphones concealed in a variety of

      The Larionovs' brigade worked very closely with the
      secret services of the Maritime Territory, primarily
      with the naval intelligence service of the GRU.
      Contracts for the elimination of criminal "bosses"
      came from the local UFSB. The Larionovs' own analysts
      identified seven such bosses who headed groups which
      controlled businesses in Vladivostok. The brothers
      decided to "take them out" and take over the
      businesses for themselves.

      The man at the top of the list was a bandit with the
      underworld name of Chekhov. Two "liquidators" from the
      Larionovs' brigade set up an ambush on a road outside
      the city and raked Chekhov's automobile with automatic
      weapons fire. When the driver leaped out of the car,
      he was killed by a shot to the head, and the wounded
      "boss" was taken into the low hills, doused with
      petrol, and set on fire.

      An explosive device of massive power was thrown into
      the bedroom of another "condemned man". The target
      escaped unhurt, but the entrance hall of the apartment
      building collapsed, and four bystanders were killed.

      In 1993, conflict arose within the group. One of its
      leaders, Vadim Goldberg, and his allies, kidnapped
      Alexander Larionov, took him out to the forest, and
      killed him by stabbing him dozens of times with
      knives. When he learned his brother was dead, Sergei
      Larionov went into hiding. Late in 1993, all the
      members of the group, including Sergei Larionov and
      Goldberg, were arrested by police detectives. At one
      of his first interrogations, Larionov declared that he
      wouldn't say anything yet, but he would tell
      everything he knew at the trial: everything about
      System SB and its controllers in the secret services.
      To prevent this from happening, Larionov was killed.
      He was being held in Vladivostok detention centre
      number one, in a solitary cell under heavy guard.
      While Larionov was on his way to another
      interrogation, a prisoner called Yevgeny Demianenko,
      who had been behind bars for 19 years, was led into
      the corridor in the opposite direction. As Demianenko
      passed Larionov, he pulled out a "point" and killed
      Larionov with a single blow.

      The acts of vengeance against Larionov continued after
      he was dead. In 1999, unknown persons attempted to
      blow up his flat with his wife inside it, but she was
      not hurt. Some time later, a hired killer shot
      Larionov's lawyer, Nadezhda Samikhova. Rumours
      circulated in Vladivostok that "the secret services
      are getting rid of witnesses". The public prosecutor's
      office certainly took a suspiciously long time to
      bring the case to court. The investigation lasted for
      several years, and charges were only brought on
      January 14, 2000. The criminal case against the
      Larionovs' group amounted to 108 volumes, but there
      were only nine accused in the dock. Three of them left
      the court as free men, because the time they had spent
      in detention was counted against their sentence. The
      others were given jail sentences of eight to 15 years
      (Goldberg himself received a 15-year term).


      There is good reason to believe that the brigade of
      the well-known Samara criminal "boss", Alexander
      Litvinka (known by the underworld nickname of Nissan),
      worked for the FSB. Litvinka lived in Ukraine. In the
      early 1980s, he arrived in Samara and, following a
      series of armed robberies, was sentenced to seven
      years' imprisonment. He emerged from the penal
      colonies as a "boss" and was given the nickname of
      Nissan for his love of Japanese automobiles. Having
      acquired the support of Samara "bosses", such as
      Dmitri Ruzlyaev ("Big Dima") and Mikhail Besfamilny
      ("Fiend"). Litvinka set up his own brigade, which
      consisted of karate experts who were strict
      teetotallers and obeyed orders unquestioningly.

      Litvinka was soon involved in a war for control of the
      Volga Automobile Plant (VAZ). In early 1996, a meeting
      between representatives of two Samara criminal
      groupings was held at the Dubki Hotel. When the
      negotiations had been successfully concluded, four
      unknown persons shot the assembled delegates using
      Kalashnikovs. Four underworld "bosses" and one
      "legitimate villain" were killed. Litvinka was
      identified as one of the assailants, and he was
      arrested shortly afterwards. A month later he was
      released from jail, and no charges were brought
      against him. From that moment on, no one in criminal
      circles doubted that Litvinka worked for the secret
      services, and he was declared an outlaw at one of the
      "thieves' councils". To avoid being killed, Litvinka
      left the Samara Region and only appeared there on rare
      occasions, usually to carry out another contract
      killing of a gangland "boss". It seems clear that
      Litvinka was responsible for the killing of Ruzlyaev
      in Samara in 1998, and of the "boss" Konstantin Berkut
      in 1999.

      On the afternoon of September 23, 2000, Alexander
      Litvinka was killed in Moscow in the vicinity of house
      number 27 on Krylatskie Kholmy Street. The shooting
      was carried out by four men. At the crime scene
      policemen found four pistols abandoned by the killers:
      two Makarovs with silencers, a Kedr automatic, and an
      Izh-Baikal. They also found a Makarov belonging to the
      victim. The assailants left the scene in a white
      VAZ-2107 automobile. We can only guess at who it was
      that eliminated Litvinka, FSB operatives or Samara


      The well-known Kurgan brigade of Alexander Solonik
      ("Sasha the Macedonian"), consisting mostly of former
      and current employees of the Russian secret services
      and military units, was also "run" by the secret
      services, in particular the SBP and FSB. The Kurgan
      group appeared in Moscow in the early 1990s and was
      taken over by the leader of the Orekhov group, Sergei
      Timofeiev ("Sylvester"). Timofeiev was an agent of the
      MB-FSK and maintained close contact with a former
      officer of the Fifth Department of the KGB USSR by the
      name of Maiorov, who later headed up one of the
      security organisations in the Toko Bank. Maiorov
      regularly visited the head of the Operations
      Department of the ATT, Lieutenant- General Ivan
      Kuzmich Mironov, the former secretary of the Communist
      Party organisation of the Fifth Department of the KGB
      USSR, who was now directly responsible for seeking out

      In the mid-1990s, major changes began taking place
      within the Orekhov group, when Timofeiev acquired a
      rival in the person of Sergei Butorin ("Osya"). In
      September 1994, Timofeiev was blown up in his Mercedes
      automobile. Then one by one people loyal to Timofeiev
      disappeared. Butorin created his own group, which
      included people from the Orekhov, Kurgan, and
      Medvedkov criminal organisations. His "cleaners"
      included special operations officers from the GRU,
      MVD, and VDV. Serving members of various military and
      law enforcement departments appeared in Butorin's
      entourage, including one lieutenant colonel from
      counter-intelligence (he was later accused of a number
      of serious crimes, but the charges were dropped).

      In late 1994, three men by the names of Koligov,
      Neliubin, and Ignatov emerged as the clear leaders of
      the Kurgan group. The fame of the "Kurgan cleaners"
      spread throughout Russia. One of the most famous of
      the hitmen was Alexander Solonik, but the most active
      and dangerous killer in the group was called

      The Kurgan group fought a bitter war with another
      operation, the Bauman group. According to one of the
      agents who worked with the Kurgan group, during this
      war dozens of members of the Bauman brigade were
      killed, and usually they were first abducted and
      subjected to extremely cruel torture, including being
      burned and having their eyes put out, before they were
      eventually finished off. The Kurgan group called the
      members of the Bauman group "the beasts' brigade", and
      claimed that it included a number of Dagestanis. One
      reason that the war was fought was to gain control
      over one of the firms that sold American cars. But the
      real point was that the tyres of these were used to
      conceal drugs imported from Columbia.

      The activities of the Kurgan group were monitored by
      the 12th Section of the MUR. Operational matters were
      handled by Oleg Plokhikh. Two members of the Kurgan
      organisation were finally arrested and put away in the
      Matrosskaya Tishina detention centre. In a
      conversation with his lawyer, one of them said that if
      they used psychotropic drugs on him he might break
      down and "spill" everything he knew about a dozen
      major contract killings, including that of the
      well-known television journalist Listiev. He asked to
      be transferred to Lefortovo jail and promised to begin
      cooperating with the investigation if they would give
      him definite guarantees of his safety, since the
      Kurgans had been responsible for many killings,
      including those of several so-called "legitimate
      villains", which were punishable by death under the
      unwritten laws of Russian prisons. MUR began
      preparations to move both the detainees, but they were
      too late. Information leaked out, and both Kurgans
      were killed on the same night, even though they were
      in different cells. It was a contract killing of two
      suspects whose testimony would have helped to solve a
      number of other sensational contract killings.

      Solonik was luckier. After his arrest, he was put in a
      special wing at Matrosskaya Tishina, from where
      arrangements were made for his flight abroad, to

      The rout of the Kurgans might have been the direct
      responsibility of the leader of the rival Koptev
      criminal organisation, Vasily Naumov ("Naum"), who was
      one of the MVD's secret agents. At one time, the
      Kurgans had gained the confidence of the Koptev
      organisation, and then, having identified almost all
      of their rivals' sources of income, they began doing
      away with the Koptev brigade's leaders. Realising just
      who was responsible, Naumov "shopped" the Kurgans to
      the 12th Section of MUR. Then the FSB became involved,
      because it didn't want the Kurgan group, which it ran,
      to be destroyed, and because it was afraid of
      information leaking out and causing a scandal. The FSB
      quickly figured out that information on the Kurgans
      was being supplied to the MUR by Naumov, who had close
      contacts with members of the Kurgan group. They
      informed the Kurgans of their discovery.

      On 27 January 1997, Naumov, accompanied by his armed
      bodyguards from the police special operations group
      Saturn, arrived by car for a meeting with the MUR
      operations officer who was his contact at the GUVD
      building at 38 Petrovka Street. He called the officer
      on his mobile phone, asked him to join him outside,
      and waited in the car. While the officer was coming
      downstairs from his office, a Zhiguli automobile
      pulled in behind Naumov's car, and the men in it shot
      Naumov dead with automatic weapons. The Kurgans had
      made it clear that they knew about Naumov's
      collaboration with the MUR.

      Agent Naumov's activities could not, however, have led
      to the destruction of the Kurgan group if not for two
      other circumstances. The first was that Korzhakov was
      removed from his post as head of the SBP, and the
      structure was subsequently dismantled.

      Without Korzhakov's support, the Kurgans were
      vulnerable. The second was a "paid up" contract issued
      to the central administration of the MVD for the
      Kurgan group's destruction. The contract was "paid" by
      the Bauman bandits, who traditionally had good
      contacts in the MVD, and after Korzhakov's dismissal
      they were able to raise the matter of getting rid of
      the Kurgans in the ministry.

      Apart from the MUR, the Kurgans were also being hunted
      down by Butorin, who gave orders for them to be shot.
      All of the murders planned by Butorin's group were
      thoroughly planned and executed at the level of
      professional secret services, including literally
      minute-by-minute reporting-in by participants in the
      operation. The intention was to gather together the
      core of the Kurgan operatives (Koligov, Neliubin,
      Ignatov, and Solonik) in Greece and kill them all at
      the same time.

      Butorin's operation for the annihilation of Solonik's
      group was carried out under the control of the FSB or
      the GRU. This is probably why there was an information
      leak, and two weeks of round-the-clock observation of
      the Greek villa were wasted. Koligov, Neliubin, and
      Ignatov didn't turn up to see Solonik.

      Then two people who were loyal to Butorin, Sasha the
      Soldier and Seriozha, both of whom knew Solonik,
      arrived at Solonik's house, called him out to the car,
      and drove off in the direction of Athens. On the way,
      Soldier, who was sitting in the rear seat, threw a
      noose over Solonik's neck and strangled him.

      Meanwhile, operatives of the Moscow RUOP had set out
      to fly to Greece after receiving information from
      Butorin that Solonik lived in the small village of
      Baribobi, on the outskirts of Athens. Following the
      directions Butorin had given them, on 3 February 1997,
      the RUOP officers discovered Solonik's body. If they
      had arrived a day earlier, they might have found him
      alive. But the people who drew up the timetable for
      their operation knew just who should arrive where and
      when, and they were late precisely because they were
      not supposed to find Solonik alive.

      That, in general terms, is the official version of
      events. What actually happened we shall never know.
      Solonik had left four audio-cassettes with his
      recorded memoirs in a numbered safe in a bank in
      Cyprus. In January 1997, a few days before he "met his
      end", he phoned his lawyer Valery Karyshev and asked
      him to publish the contents of the tapes in case of
      his death. When Solonik "departed" on 2 February, for
      some reason he took the money from his account with
      him. Somehow, Solonik's fingerprints disappeared from
      his case file, and the female friend who was with him
      in Baribobi disappeared into thin air.

      With typical lawyer's alacrity, Karyshev published
      Solonik's tapes that same year, and it became clear
      that the book, which told a lot of stories, but
      without naming names, was Solonik's special insurance
      policy: "don't come looking for me, or I will name
      names". Incidentally, Butorin, who was put on the
      federal wanted list "for committing especially heinous
      crimes", was never found. They say he became a big
      businessman. He always had several foreign passports,
      so he could easily have left Russia altogether.


      Another freelance special group was the organisation
      of GRU Colonel Valery Radchikov, the head of the
      Russian Fund for Afghan War Invalids. The group was
      founded in 1991 via the GRU. At the final count some
      37 people connected with the invalids' fund were
      killed, and another 62 were injured.

      In 1994, the fund's first manager, Mikhail Likhodei,
      was blown up in the entrance of his apartment block.
      In October 1995, Radchikov only survived by a miracle
      when he was seriously wounded by six bullets but
      managed to evade the killers who attacked him in his
      car. However, his legal advisor and deputy, Dmitri
      Mateshev, never recovered consciousness and died
      following the shoot-out. On 10 November 1996, 14
      people were blown to pieces and 26 mutilated by an
      explosion at the Kotlyakovskoe Cemetery. The dead
      included Likhodei's widow, Elena Krasnolutskaya, who
      was the financial director at the invalids' fund, and
      Likhodei's friend and successor, Sergei Trakhirov.
      Radchikov was accused of planning the bombing. On 3
      September 1998, when Radchikov was already in jail,
      another of his assistants, the general director of a
      new Afghan War fund, Valery Vukolov, was shot dead.

      For all these years, money had been embezzled from the
      fund, which, after all, is the norm in Russia, but the
      extent of the embezzlement was exceptional. The most
      conservative estimates put the amount at about $200m
      (£100m). The case was investigated by the finest men
      in the public prosecutor's office, led by the
      investigator for especially important cases, Danilov.
      He was assisted by four other "bigwigs" and over 100
      operatives (making in total a team of more than 180).
      But they were unable to work out where the millions
      stolen from the Afghan War invalids had gone.
      Radchikov himself was accused of stealing only
      two-and-a-half million dollars.

      A few days after Radchikov's arrest, his deputy at the
      fund, Valery Voshchevoz, who monitored all of the
      fund's cash flows and was one of Yeltsin's agents for
      the presidential campaign of 1996, was hastily
      dispatched to the Amur region as the president's
      plenipotentiary representative. The trial of Radchikov
      and his two accomplices, Mikhail Smurov and Andrei
      Anokhin, lasted 10 months. On 17 January 2000, the
      state prosecutor demanded sentences of 13, 15, and 10
      years for the accused.

      Radchikov was accused of plotting in 1996 to kill his
      competitor in the "Afghan movement", the chairman of
      the invalids' fund, Sergei Trakhirov, and of giving a
      pistol and at least $50,000 for this purpose to one of
      his neighbours in the apartment block, the Afghan War
      veteran Andrei Anokhin. He, in turn, persuaded Mikhail
      Smurov to take part in the murder for $10,000.

      Killing Trakhirov was not easy. Everywhere he went he
      was accompanied by bodyguards from the Vityaz unit,
      which was under the command of Sergei Ivanovich
      Lysiuk, who worked closely with the FSB. "Hero of
      Russia" Lysiuk, the founder and first commander of the
      Vityaz interior forces' special operations unit of the
      MVD RF, had been recruited into the ranks of the
      secret agents of the Special Section of the KGB when
      he was still a senior lieutenant. The last member of
      the special service to act as Lysiuk's contact was the
      head of the military counter-intelligence unit,
      Vladimir Yevgenievich Vlasov, who actually removed
      Lysiuk's name from the listings of the FSB's secret
      agents (so that he would not be given a new
      controller) and made him a so-called "archive agent".
      (Lysiuk won his "Hero of Russia" for commanding the
      Vityaz unit in the defence of the Ostankino television
      centre in 1993. He was the one who gave the order to
      open fire on the supporters of the putsch.)

      Under the new circumstances, Vlasov was one of
      Lysiuk's deputies in his commercial firm. Operational
      information indicates that the commercial activities
      of Lysiuk's firm included training contract killers,
      including members of Lazovsky's group, but Lysiuk
      himself might not have known anything about that, even
      though the Moscow region criminal investigation
      department reported frequent sightings of Lazovsky at
      Lysiuk and Vlasov's base.

      So the conspirators decided to blow up Trakhirov at
      the Kotlyakovskoe Cemetery during the wake for Mikhail
      Likhodei, the chairman of the Afghan War invalids'
      fund who was killed in 1994. Amazingly enough, just a
      few days before the bombing, Trakhirov's bodyguards
      were changed. The new bodyguards were killed in the
      explosion, but the old ones from Vityaz survived. We
      can assume that Lysiuk might have known about the
      forthcoming assassination attempt from Vlasov or other
      people in his entourage.

      The court hearings on the case of the bombing
      concluded on 18 April. The accused were offered a
      final word, and all three of them said that they had
      "nothing at all" to do with the terrorist attack, and
      thus asked the court to find them innocent.
      Radchikov's lawyer, P Yushin, declared that the case
      had been deliberately fabricated.

      On 21 January, the Moscow District Military Court,
      under the chairmanship of Colonel of Justice Vladimir
      Serdiukov, acquitted the accused because "their
      involvement in the crime committed had not been
      proved". The court regarded the arguments of the
      investigation into the case of the explosion at
      Kotlyakovskoe Cemetery as unconvincing. The acquittal
      was founded on the results of the court's analysis of
      the remains of the explosive device, which diverged
      significantly from the results of the analysis carried
      out during the investigation.

      In addition, a female acquaintance of one of the
      accused, Mikhail Smurov, testified that on the day of
      the explosion Smurov was at home and could not
      possibly have set off the explosive device, as the
      investigators accused him of doing.

      Valery Radchikov was also acquitted on the charge of
      embezzling two-and-a-half million dollars from the
      fund. All three accused were released directly from
      the courtroom. On 25 July, 2000, the Public
      Prosecutor's Office lost its appeal to the Supreme
      Court for the acquittal to be set aside. Radchikov was
      intending to take the dispute to the European Court.
      However, at about eight o'clock in the evening on 31
      January 2001, he was killed in an automobile accident
      39 kilometres along the Minsk Highway on his way back
      to Moscow in a Moskvich 2141 automobile. That same day
      the Novosti press agency announced that the law
      enforcement agencies were of the opinion that
      Radchikov's death might not have been a simple

      Dozens of dead bodies, millions of dollars missing,
      and not a single criminal caught - taken altogether
      this is simply a statistical impossibility for the
      world of crime. And you don't need to be Sherlock
      Holmes to work out which group was behind this
      complicated and highly successful game in which the
      main player suffered a fatal automobile accident at
      such a convenient moment.

      This is an edited extract from 'Blowing up Russia: The
      Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror' by Alexander
      Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky, published by Gibson
      Square, priced £14.99. To order a copy for the special
      price of £13.50 call Independent Books Direct on 08700
      798 897, or visit www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk

      The Russian secret services

      FSB: Federal Security Service, effectively the
      latter-day KGB

      UFSB: Regional FSB

      GRU: Russian Ministry of Defence's foreign military
      intelligence operation

      MB-FSK: Ministry of Security and the Federal
      Counter-intelligence Service. (The KGB, effectively,
      was first renamed as MB, then as FSK, and only later
      as FSB)

      SBP: President's Security Service

      MVD RF: Ministry of the Interior of the Russian

      ATT: Anti-terrorist centre of the FSB

      GUVD: Division of the MVD
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