It’s not every day that an individual helps in solving their own murder, obviously because of logical reasons. However, in 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a British-naturalized Russian defector, helped the authorities identify possible suspects who poisoned him with the deadly polonium 210 heavy metal. Of course, having served in the forces and understanding how the system worked helped Litvinenko a lot. However, it still wasn’t as straightforward. Here are some intriguing poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko facts you probably didn’t know.

1. Alexander Litvinenko Was the First Solo Person Murdered By Radiation

After meeting two Russian ex-KGB officers at the Millennium Hotel in London on November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko suddenly fell ill. He initially exhibited symptoms such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Within a short time, his symptoms escalated, and he couldn’t walk unaided, prompting his wife to call an ambulance.

In the hospital, his urine samples were taken for further tests. The results showed he was poisoned by polonium 210, a deadly heavy metal. His death marked a new era for radioactivity.

2. He Was Convinced that President Putin Ordered His Murder

Even though he was in immense pain, Alexander Litvinenko soldiered on and told the authorities what he thought. He was convinced that Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, ordered his murder as he was the only one with the privilege of giving directions to a radiation attack.

He requested his photographs taken and shared with the public, saying he wanted the world to see what “they” did to him. Most people consider Litvinenko the person who solved his own murder.

3. The Choice of Using Polonium-210 Was Strategic

According to experts, Alexander Litvinenko’s killers strategically chose polonium-210 as their ideal weapon because it was hard to detect once a person ingested it. Their strategy seemed to be going to plan as the first results on Litvinenko’s urine samples were negative.

In fact, they only discovered the polonium traces by chance. A Brit who had previously worked at an atomic bomb program overheard a discussion about the small spike in the sample and recognized it as a gamma-ray signal emitted by decayed polonium-210.

4. Alexander Litvinenko Unknowingly Survived Two Previous Assassination Attempts

Before he eventually ingested the polonium 210 radioactive substance through a cup of tea, Alexander Litvinenko had unknowingly survived two previous assassination attempts. According to the detectives working on the case, the first attack happened on October 16, 2006, at a security company office.

On the day, Alexander Litvinenko had lunch with his potential killers. He ingested the radioactive substance, but it was way below the lethal dose; he fell ill but survived. The second unsuccessful assassination attempt happened on October 25, 2006, when one of the attackers failed to administer the poison. He feared the security cameras would identify him.

5. Alexander Litvinenko’s Killers Didn’t Know They Were Handling Radioactive Poison

In what journalist Luke Harding described as “idiotic” behavior, it appears that the killers sent to eliminate Alexander Litvinenko didn’t know they were dealing with radioactive poison. When they realized the container carrying the poison was leaking, they used ordinary towels to wipe it. They also stored it in the same room they were sleeping in and disposed of the excesses through the sink.

6. He Was a Former Officer of the Russian Federal Security Service

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation is the country’s primary security agency. Even though not immediately, the organization was formed to take over from the Soviet Union’s Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti, popularly KGB. At one point, Alexander Litvinenko worked for the Russian Federal Security, something that later contributed to his agonizing death.

7. Alexander Litvinenko Was A Big Critic of the Russian Government

Even before seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, Alexander Litvinenko harshly criticized the Russian Government from within Russia. In 1998, he and other FSB officers accused their superiors of giving directions to assassinate Boris Berezovsky, a former Russian business oligarch, mathematician, and engineer. He was arrested, charged, and released before he fled the country.

8. He Wrote Several Books

While in Boston, Liconshire, Alexander Litvinenko wrote and published two books: Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within and Lubyanka Criminal Group. Here, he continued his criticism of the Russian Government, accusing them of staging the Russian apartment bombings in 1999 that saw President Vladimir Putin ascend to power.

9. Litvinenko Contaminated Everything He Came In Contact With

After taking the laced green tea at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, everything Alexander Litvinenko touched, except the bus he took, was highly contaminated. First, he went to Boris Berezovsky’s office, where he used a fax machine; he heavily contaminated it.

He then rode in Akhmed Zakayev’s car, leaving huge amounts of radioactive polonium. In fact, the vehicle was so much radioactive that it was written off. His house was also not suitable for habitation for over six months.

10. Alexander Litvinenko’s Autopsy Was One of the Most Dangerous Ever

As part of the inquiry into what actually killed him, Alexander Litvinenko’s autopsy was considered one of the most dangerous ever. His body was so contaminated that tremendous steps had to be taken to protect the staff from exposure; they wore two suits, specialized hoods, and high-end gloves. The body was taken to a “secure” site for tests.

11. He Was Buried in a Lead-Lined Coffin

To further emphasize how bad Alexander Litvinenko’s body was contaminated, he was buried in a lead-lined coffin. His remains could only be exhumed after 30 years.

12. Litvinenko’s Widow Was Awarded €100,000

In the Carter V. Russia case tried by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Litvinenko’s widow was awarded €100,000 for non-pecuniary damage and €22,500 for expenses and costs. The judge also called out Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, stating that the court found the state had something to do with Litvinenko’s death.

13. Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun Are The Major Suspects of Litvinenko’s Poisoning

The reports from detectives who handled Litvinenko’s poisoning case found Andrey Lugovoy, a former Federal Protective Service officer, and Dmitry Kovtun, an ex-KGB agent, as the main suspects. The British request for the two’s extradition to the UK to stand trial was denied by Russia. In 2007, Andrey Lugovoy became a Russian Member of Parliament, giving him immunity against extradition.

14. Dmitry Kovtun Died of COVID-19

Dmitry Kovtun, one of the suspects in Alexander Litvinenko’s poisoning case, died in 2022 from COVID-19 complications. He passed on while receiving medication at a hospital in Russia.

15. Alexander Litvinenko Converted to Islam

While on his deathbed, Alexander Litvinenko converted to Islam. His father responded to this by stating at least his son was better than the communists and that he had no problem with his decision.

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Last Update: December 12, 2023