Jack Rice - Blog

Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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Moscow Points Finger at Billionaire in Spy Murder

The investigation into the death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko continues. Litvinenko apparently died from exposure to radioactive polonium-210 and traces of the material have been found in at least 6 sites around London. At least a handful of people who also may have come into contact with the substance are being tested.

As the story continues to unravel, several names have come up. One, that of President Putin. According to statements made by Litvinenko before his death were that Putin and the SVR, the successor to the KGB, was responsible for his murder.

The SVRs's and Putin's motivation? Apparently, it would be to stop the investigation that Litvinenko was conducting into the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Russia two months ago. Politikovskaya had recently exposed Russian troop atrocities on civilians in Chechnya that had been extremely embarrassing to the President. Did Putin kill her too?

Litvinenko, a strong critic himself of the government, believed that this was part of a broader campaign by the Russians to clamp down on the media, and stop criticism of the government. President Putin has been criticized for attacking the press and intimidating journalists. In addition, 13 journalists, including Politkovskaya, have been murdered in Russia since 2000 and none have been arrested, let alone convicted of the crimes.

All of this could implicate Russian intelligence officials, if not President Putin himself, a former KGB official.

In response, the Kremlin has implicated billionaire businessman Boris Berezovsky in the murder. This brings up an interesting figure because Litvinenko has previously claimed that Russian intelligence had ordered him to kill Berezovsky but he refused. Litvinenko then fled Russia and moved to Britain where he was hired by and supported by Berezovsky, another Russian who had previously fled to Britain.

If location has relevance, then the Russians may have something. On the day of his poisoning, Litvinenko was in several locations including at the Mayfair headquarters of Berezovsky. To date, Berezovsky has declined to explain publicly to purpose of that meeting.

Regarding Berezovsky's past, the Russians have tried to extradite Mr. Berezovsky on financial charges regarding corruption but the Berezovsky has argued that these were politically motivated and the British apparently agreed.

Valery Dyantlenko, a deputy head of the security committee in the Russian Lower House known as the Duma stated on public television, "The death of Litvinenko - for Russia, for the security services - means nothing . . . I think this is another game of some kind by Berezovsky."

Of course, what is unclear, at this point, would be the logic behind Berezovsky murdering the one man that he has finanicially supported, kept financially afloat, and apparently continued to spur along to embarrass the Russian government. Of course, one possible justification would be if Litvinenko were murdered by Berezovsky, the Russians, the SVR and President Putin would be held responsible. I'm not quite sure if I'm prepared to make this contortion of logic at this point. Frankly, this feels more like an effort to shift blame but this story has already had enough twists for a cold war novel.

At the same time, PM Blair has vowed to treat this matter very seriously. He added, "We are determined to find out what happened and who is responsible."

As this story continues, as the intrigue continues, it seems to get stranger and stranger.