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Former Spy Poisoned By Radiation In UK

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the fishy-quite-fishy dept.

432

An anonymous reader writes "BBC new is reporting the death of the ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko with a major dose of radioactive polonium-210. But nobody knows how it got there. Suspicions have fallen upon the Russian security services (who deny involvement). The task of the pathologists now is to unpick what really killed him and how it was administered. Quite what techniques they will use to solve this puzzle is unclear." From the article: "A post-mortem examination on Mr Litvinenko has not been held yet. The delay is believed to be over concerns about the health implications for those present at the examination. But Roger Cox from the HPA said a large quantity of alpha radiation emitted from polonium-210 had been detected in Mr Litvinenko's urine."

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432 comments

russian reversal (0)

eneville (745111) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978216)

In UK you get poisoned, in Soviet Russia poison finds you!!

The non-reversal should read: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978258)

In Putin's russia, the KGB poison you.

The wealth and reach of the Russian Mafia (Putin and his former KGB cronies) is terrifying and the UK government just love that dirty money.

Re:russian reversal (0, Offtopic)

Harry_Ballsak (942394) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978520)

Howcome I read the news (on 2 ocassions today) at 8am today and then at 3pm /. decides to post it???

just a thought.

Reading the artcle...... (5, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978240)

......found this curious comment:

"Mr Putin himself has said Mr Litvinenko's death was a tragedy, but he saw no "definitive proof" it was a "violent death"."

Clearly the term "violent death" has a different definition in Russian than it does in English.

Re:Reading the artcle...... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978336)

Or more likely, he's just not being honest.

Mr Putin himself has said Mr Litvinenko's death was a tragedy

Mr. Litvinenko was apparantly more than your average former KGB agent - he's accused [72.14.253.104] Putin of pedophilia, among other things. Even if Putin weren't behind this poisoning (which he almost certainly is), he probably wouldn't consider Mr. Litvinenko's death a tragedy at all.

Isn't it strange how Putin's most vocal critics [economist.com] inside Russia are just dropping like flies...

Re:Reading the artcle...... (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978390)

Isn't it strange how Putin's most vocal critics [economist.com] inside Russia are just dropping like flies...

Indeed, and these are people who are meant to be on "our side" now. Does anyone really think Russia isn't sliding back towards a totalitarian regime?

Re:Reading the artcle...... (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978428)

Not sure about totalitarian, more like a crimistocracy or crimocracy or perhaps crimotarian.

Re:Reading the artcle...... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978466)

We have always been allied with Russia. We have always been at war with Islamic fundamentalists.

Re:Reading the artcle...... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978370)

This was said before the postmortem and before Po poisoning was officially confirmed.

Before that the UK medics went through a list of at least 3-4 different hypothesis each of which proved to be loads of bull. Tallium, radioactive Tallium, strange objects in his intestines, etc you name it.

So at the point where Putin said it nothing was known yet. I have not heard what he said in Russian so it is also quite likely that some nuances have been lost in translation (like a "yet" at the end of the sentence).

As far as you noticing that his idea of violent death differs from our idea of violent death that is a definite. He would not have had his past job if this was not so.

It is quite interesting that AFAIK this is the first high profile poisoning with radioactive substance. Considering the guaranteed lethality and obvious ineptitude of the medics in diagnosing it I am surprised that this does not happen more often. Actually, probably it does, but using much smaller doses which end up in effects indistinguishable from cancer. If the dose was a small fraction of what he got he would have died quietly from leukemia 6 months from now. Whoever killed him wanted to make a point and also wanted the fingers to be pointed at the usual suspects.

Which makes me on a second thought post anonymously :-)

Re:Reading the artcle...... (0)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978394)

wasn't Putin somehow involved with the KGB in Cold War times? Anyway, their definition of "violent death" probably excludes things like minor torture, suffocation, poisoning, shot to the brain stem, etc... the CIA and KGB were pretty creative in the Cold War Spy days... they could make a "hit" death look like anything they wanted...mugging, traffic accident, electrocution in the tub, natural gas explosion for a city block or two... most only looked "violent" if they were botched.

Frankly, I'm waiting for the TSA response to this!!! I wonder when they'll start forcing flyers to discard things that "look" like radioactive isotopes... or even "isotopes" tee-shirts!!!

Re:Reading the artcle...... (2, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978476)

Even for me that dont speak english natively, that could not apply for my "violent death" definition. Falling from a building (ok, hitting the floor after) is violent death, like being hit by a car, or a bullet in the head. But a somewhat slow, maybe taking days death because poison, starving, thirst or whatever dont fall in my category.

Now, also what he could mean is that there are not conclusive evidence to tell if was he was killed, or it was accidental (touching dust/old things from work/whatever and then food?), or was an intentional suicide (dont think so, but still odds are not nil)

Of course, this is unrelated with if Putin was sincere or not saying so, just my understanding of that semantic.

Re:Reading the artcle...... (1)

bvdbos (724595) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978712)

Putin said this before it became public that polonium was the cause of death and after the docters said no "strange shadows" were discovered and that thallium wasn't the cause of the death...

History repeating, sort of (5, Insightful)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978242)

Shades of Georgi Markov [wikipedia.org], a Soviet expatriate/dissident who was also assassinated in London. He was stabbed in the leg with a special spring-loaded umbrella that subcutaneously injected a metal pellet contaminated with ricin. They didn't even find the pellet until he was already dead, and it took some work to find out just what had killed him.

I wonder how they got the polonium into him. For a death this rapid, he'd pretty much have had to ingest it.

Re:History repeating, sort of (3, Informative)

meshko (413657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978280)

a Soviet expatriate/dissident
Bulgarian
For a death this rapid, he'd pretty much have had to ingest it.
Three weeks is nto that rapid.

Re:History repeating, sort of (4, Informative)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978418)

It is for a death from radiological causes. To kill someone in mere days requires obscenely high doses of radiation, we're talking prompt-criticality accidents. Slotin took 2100 rems in an instant, enough to noticeably heat the air in the room, and he still lasted for 9 days.

Re:History repeating, sort of (4, Interesting)

ahillen (45680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978650)

It is for a death from radiological causes. To kill someone in mere days requires obscenely high doses of radiation,

But as far as I understand it, it is not claimed that he died from the radiation, but from the fact that Polonium is also very toxic.

Symptoms are a dead giveaway (3, Funny)

1992 Called (893858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978282)

Heartburn, Nausea, Indigestion
Upset Stomach, Diarrhea!

Re:Symptoms are a dead giveaway (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978322)

Oh shit, I knew should have passed on that Dhansak [rubymurray.com] last night. Am I fucked?

Re:History repeating, sort of (2, Informative)

Chicane-UK (455253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978288)

Not sure if its mentioned in TFA (have to admit I didn't look) but the reports from the BBC this week, about his poisoning (and before his death) stated that he'd met two men for lunch at a Sushi bar and began to feel seriously ill a few hours after eating there.

Not sure if they would be able to put polonium into sushi without him realising? Not even sure what it is or how large a dose you'd need to kill someone! :|

Re:History repeating, sort of (2, Funny)

dewie (685736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978368)

Not sure if they would be able to put polonium into sushi without him realising?

Isn't it obvious? The wasabi! You could hide anything in that stuff, and no-one would ever taste it. It'd even cover up the telltale green glow!

EVILO SONY POST (-1, Flamebait)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978424)

this was another plot by Sony to get more media attention to spying for their new James Bond movie... After all, they already had muggings, babies born in line, shots fired and riot police called in for PS3. What better way to kick off a Bond movie than a dead Russian spy!!!

or I could be off my meds and a little more paranoid than usual.

Re:History repeating, sort of (3, Funny)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978290)

for polonium to kill you with alpha radiation, it would have to be ingested. The real question is what seasonings they use to cover up the taste. Of course it is british cuisine we are talking about. So they may never know.

Re:History repeating, sort of (2, Interesting)

thue (121682) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978372)

The real question is what seasonings they use to cover up the taste

For the curious, Thallium is odorless and tasteless [wikipedia.org]. I guess animals just don't evolve receptors for substances not usually found in nature.

The same seasoning they use... (2, Funny)

fuego451 (958976) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978500)

to cover up most dishes: Curry. I had so much curry as a child I now need it to survive. Mmmm, kidney pie.

Re:History repeating, sort of (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978612)

While funny it probably isn't a real problem.
From the wikipedia the "safe" body load of Po210 is a massive 6.8*10^-12 grams.
I doubt that you would have to ingest very much of it to kill you.

Re:History repeating, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978416)

A previous x-ray showed up three anomolous blobs, which might be significant.

Re:History repeating, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978582)

I wonder how they got the polonium into him. For a death this rapid, he'd pretty much have had to ingest it.

It would be a lot simpler to use the standard Russian assassination technique of lead poisoning. In that case, the method of introduction is trans-occipital injection at a rate of 2,900 ft/s.

Pro tip: (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978246)

No matter how cool it may look traveling down that conveyor belt, never EVER eat the neon-green glowing sushi!

Re:Pro tip: (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978324)

here is a funny thought (going off that whole thing), you think they put it in the wasabi?

Re:Pro tip: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978442)

a) why 'tf do you care what we think? cant you even analyze your own idea?
b) it's not funny

examination (4, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978270)

The delay is believed to be over concerns about the health implications for those present at the examination.
If they're concerned, they're too ignorant about science to be qualified to do the exam. The rule of thumb is that alpas are stopped by air. Even if the guy's body fluids got on you, the alphas wouldn't get through your epidermis -- and I assume people doing autopsies are going to be wearing latex gloves, a mask, etc., since they don't want to get exposed to AIDS, etc.

Re:examination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978312)

One would hope that in addition to gloves they might also wear a condom (each). If they are worried about getting AIDS that is. (And just what form of Autopsy have YOU been participating in??0

Re:examination (0, Troll)

pakar (813627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978646)

Ehmmm... You do know that blood carries the HIV virus right?? Do dont need to f**k to catch it...

Not shure if you where sarcastic, but lets hope so.. Aleast for your sake... ;>

Re:examination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978344)

Um...

and you reckon you know that they will only find alpha particles inside him? Say, we don't need to do the autopsy, then!

PS - I like the script-suppression word for this one - EMITTER

Re:examination (1)

Essellion (669297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978528)

The delay is believed to be over concerns about the health implications for those present at the examination.

If they're concerned, they're too ignorant about science to be qualified to do the exam. The rule of thumb is that alpas are stopped by air. Even if the guy's body fluids got on you, the alphas wouldn't get through your epidermis -- and I assume people doing autopsies are going to be wearing latex gloves, a mask, etc., since they don't want to get exposed to AIDS, etc.

I think they are more concerned about the Polonium-210 being somehow accidentally introduced into their system during the autopsy rather than the direct radiation.

A quick read about Polonium [wikipedia.org] shows that its soluble in dilute acids. I wonder if thats how it was introduced?

Worried, me? (3, Insightful)

sane? (179855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978294)

Hands up who's not worried by this?

Lots of talk of what Al Qaeda might do, but these are the people with their hands on thousands of nukes, much of the energy supplies and they are now poisoning people with radioactive isotopes because they say they are scheming murdering psychopaths [cnn.com].

Do we really need another bunch of homicidal f*ckwits in the world?

WFUD Special Report: Deadly Domestic Dangers (1)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978590)

Sounds like a teaser for the local news.

Did you know that your hallway closet could become a prison? That a simple length of wire from an ordinary household lamp could be used as a garotte? That a trained killer could use a kitchen knife, not to chop vegetables for a family meal, but as a deadly weapon? Find out more on WFUD's special report: Deadly Domestic Dangers, tonight at 10, right after "24."

Re:Worried, me? (4, Insightful)

Catbeller (118204) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978716)

I've come to the conclusion that the American illuminati hated the Russians because they were too alike, too close in methodology and goals, to the Americans. Now that all the ideology is stripped away, there really isn't much difference between the Bushes+the CIA and Putin+the KGB. Except that the Russians are so much better at the nasty stuff, as they aren't hampered by thinking of themselves as morally superior.

The ex-KGB boys used a poison that is produced at the rate of 10 grams per year worldwide. They didn't do it to be clever. They did it to send a message that they did it, there's nothing that can stop them, and when you fuck with Putin and the New Russian Order and you get a creative agonizing death.

Putin was behind it. So again with the reporter a few months ago. Protest, die.

Now that we know that our "ally" is putting the finishing trim on his capitalist dictatorship, how will our millionaire media airheads and our millionaire government respond? Do I hear crickets?

a bit late on the news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978296)

no offence to ./ but I heard about this yesterday at around noon (australian time)....
bit late on the news I think

If the FSB did it, I'm sure they felt justified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978298)

Who's the fool to risk importing that stuff in and get caught up? That would be stupid obviously.

Then again, obvious is used most frequently by the unimaginative.

Why would any governments condemn Russia for this? Isn't it now that extra-judicial killings of suspects without any trial are now acceptable to "civilized" nations? So why are people making a big deal out of it? Yes, of course I am being sarcastic.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"

People just don't truly believe that crap anymore, so expect to see more of these types of evil acts.

Re:If the FSB did it, I'm sure they felt justified (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978548)

It's worth pointing out that even if Putin has ordered his execution it's not necessarily illegal since under Russian law anyone considered a danger to Russias security can be killed regardless of whether they are on Russian soil or not.

This is obviously a vital law to protect innocent Russians in the face of this awful wave of worldwide terrorism, certainly no other countries are passing similarly effective legislation ( which has the totally unexpected side effect of allowing them to do what they like to further their own personal agendas ) so I think we should all lobby our governments to offer us the same level of protection as the Russians are now enjoying.

Re:If the FSB did it, I'm sure they felt justified (2, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978692)

even if Putin has ordered his execution it's not necessarily illegal

Not under Russian law maybe, but British law tends to frown upon murder on British soil. If whoever did it is caught, they'll be spending a long stretch in a small dark hotel room...

-b.

Re:If the FSB did it, I'm sure they felt justified (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978722)

We are certainly not amused however I suspect whoever is responsible is by now far far away from our shores.

Apparently (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978302)

When it comes to things to avoid eating, apparently, he forgot Polonium!

Re:Apparently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978326)

poloni0wn3d!

Re:Apparently (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978358)

poloni0wn3d!

This is a man murdered, probably by agents of a totalitarian state. With the level of freedom-consciousness that's usually evident on Slashdot, I'm surprised you all are joking about it and not up in arms. It's not only the US and "Western" countries that do Bad Things to people whom they dislike! Sadly, most of the same people that were running Russia during the Communist dictatorship era are still running the show.

-b.

Re:Apparently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978408)

In Soviet Russia, dinner kills you!

Re:Apparently (2, Insightful)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978452)

Russia's actions are much more appalling because they are done in such openness, with such indifference to how easily it can be traced back to the state, underscoring their government's brazenness in doing whatever the heck they feel like doing. The list includes jailing an oil tycoon and using a fake company -- with shown ties to the government and billions of dollars that it gathered seemingly out of nowhere, to bid for the oil company, when sell it back to the state for pennies on the dollar. Or cutting off natural gas to entire countries in the midst of the coldest winter in years.

It is amazing to me how nothing has changed in Russia since the cold war, the KGB, Solidarity, etc. Russia is the big bully of Europe and there doesn't appear anyone that can stand up to them, and there's definitely too many business/trade ties for other governments to use any strong tactics to chastise Putin.

Re:Apparently (1)

Possibly Malignant (933521) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978550)

This is a man murdered, probably by agents of a totalitarian state. With the level of freedom-consciousness that's usually evident on Slashdot, I'm surprised you all are joking about it and not up in arms.

In fairness, Russia has yet to be officially implicated in this affair. True, there was an obvious motive for the Russian government to assassinate Mr. Litvinenko.

And the elsewhere-mentioned similarity with the Markov assassination [wikipedia.org].

Plus the method of murder clearly (hopefully?) rules out civilian involvement.

Dang... Russia is getting sloppy.

Re:Apparently (4, Interesting)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978604)

Dang... Russia is getting sloppy.

Wrong answer. This may be intended as a very public warning to other possible defectors and traitors not to follow in Litvinenko's footsteps. The same deal as the (apocryphal?) story Oleg Penkovsky (GRU double agent in the 60ies) being burnt alive and a film of the execution being shown to all new KGB recruits to discourage disloyalty.

-b.

Former USSR = nutbag central? (5, Interesting)

0jjjjjjjjjj0 (1024211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978310)

It will be interesting to see how this investigation concludes. Some dismiss a lot of what comes out at these press conferences as simple 'nutbag syndrome', however well-founded their claims may be. See, from the article ...

As the conference drew to a close, a heckler interrupted saying he was from Ukraine and had also been the victim of poisoning.

He's been labelled a heckler, when he may well have a genuine issue at hand. The same thing, perhaps a little more dramatic, happened at a press conference regarding the demise of the Kursk [wikipedia.org].

On 18 August, Nadezhda Tylik mother of Kursk submariner Lt. Sergei Tylik, produced an intense emotional outburst in the middle of an in-progress news briefing about Kursk's fate. After attempts to quiet her failed, a nurse injected her with a sedative and she was removed from the room, incapacitated. The event, caught on film, caused further criticism of the government's response to both the disaster, and how the government handled public criticism of said response.

When Russia (yes, even modern-day Russia) gets its hands near an investigation, the result is usually indeterminate or irrelevant, never indisputable.

you fail 1t.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978316)

networking test. Be on a wrong file 3as opened NIGGER ASSOCIATION

Re:you fail 1t.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978508)

Red fox, this is blue panda. Please repeat your 3AS, over.

polonium-210 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978330)

Who's to blame? Poland, obviously.

Which Is Preferable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978384)

The US or UK would kidnap you THEN kill you.

Let's not imagine that a high-ranking secret service officer from ANY country would be allowed to tell all they knew to another country's journalists, authors or government..

Oh and good timing with that new Bond film recently released..

Devotion to one's cause (-1, Troll)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978396)

Perhaps this man was so convinced of Putin's evil that he poisoned himself and insisted very loudly that Moscow/Putin was responsible in order to put pressure on Putin.

Perhaps I am an idiot.

Re:Devotion to one's cause (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978414)

Perhaps this man was so convinced of Putin's evil that he poisoned himself and insisted very loudly that Moscow/Putin was responsible in order to put pressure on Putin.

You can't exactly buy Polonium-210 at every corner drugstore ... (but you will be able to in 1985).

-b.

Re:Devotion to one's cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978634)

He was an ex-KGB defector and therefore more likely to have the contacts to get Polonium-210 that most people. On the other hand, the suggestion that that may have happened does seem pretty wild.

Re:Devotion to one's cause (2, Interesting)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978662)

He was an ex-KGB defector and therefore more likely to have the contacts to get Polonium-210 that most people. On the other hand, the suggestion that that may have happened does seem pretty wild.

Interesting question - what if he's found to have some other terminal disease at the autopsy? What if he knew he was going to die within a few months anyway and decided to suicide in a rather spectacular manner that would embarrass the fuck out of the Russian government? Wild speculation here of course.

-b.

Re:Devotion to one's cause (1)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978544)

Perhaps this man was so convinced of Putin's evil that he poisoned himself and insisted very loudly that Moscow/Putin was responsible in order to put pressure on Putin. Perhaps I am an idiot.

Perhaps you are...I don't think anyone would willing choose to die of something as horrifically painful as radiation sickness.

Poorly trained (0)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978402)

What do they teach these guys? Didn't he ever see a Bond movie? Radioactive sushi? The first beautiful female spy or space based laser cannon this guy ran into he'd have been dead meat. It's a wonder he lived as long as he did.

Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have? (2, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978432)

Other than in nuclear weapons?

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978468)

Wikipedia says research has been made to see if it could be used to heat spacecraft. Also:

When it is mixed or alloyed with beryllium, polonium can be a neutron source. Other uses include:

        * This element has also been used in devices that eliminate static charges in textile mills and other places. However, beta sources are more commonly used and are less dangerous.
        * It is used on brushes that remove accumulated dust from photographic films. The polonium used in these brushes is sealed and controlled thus minimizing radiation hazards.
        * 210Po has been used as a lightweight heat source to power thermoelectric cells.

I'm unsure if all the above applies to this specific isotope, but further down there's this:
210Po has been used as a lightweight heat source to power thermoelectric cells in artificial satellites. A 210Po heat source was also used in each of the Lunokhod rovers deployed on the surface of the Moon, to keep their internal components warm during the lunar nights.

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978478)

Like many radioactive elements it is quite effective at killing people.

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978488)

Ok here's a creepy thought.

      What if this guy blaming Putin is a red herring and that ACTUALLY he managed to get his hands on radioactive material and managed to smuggle it and sell it to someone...sort of like the drug couriers who swallow condoms full of cocaine or heroin, and have an unfortunate accident. Scary eh?

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978540)

What if this guy blaming Putin is a red herring and that ACTUALLY he managed to get his hands on radioactive material and managed to smuggle it and sell it to someone...

If he was dying, don't you think he'd have dropped a hint so that doctors might be able to treat him? If he was truly a self-serving criminal, he'd likely value his life over protecting his "associates."

-b.

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (2, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978592)

If he was dying, don't you think he'd have dropped a hint so that doctors might be able to treat him?

      You can't save a patient that has this level of radiation poisoning. Impossible. Maybe he knew it, so he decided to play for the maximum political advantage. If people can fly aircraft into buildings, they can do this. Anyway it's just a creepy thought, probably not true at all - where would he get it? It will be interesting to see what the cause of the radiation is at the sushi bar. So long as it's not coming from the sewer ;)

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (3, Insightful)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978570)

Surely I'm not the only one to immediately look up the element on the Wooden Periodic Table Table [theodoregray.com]?
Antistatic brush.
These brushes, which you can still buy today (2002) are made for brushing static charge off of photographic negatives. The radiation from the polonium element (which must be replaced every year or so because the half life is only 138 days) ionizes the air around the brush, making it conductive and carrying away the static charge.
[...]
Later, while I was in Boston to receive the Ig Nobel Prize for the wooden periodic table, I purchased a brand new brush with a full charge of polonium. That's why this sample is classified as having about 20% actual polonium: It's an average figure assuming I buy a new one every few years (they are fairly cheap).

Sounds like all our Russian "friends" needed to do was to visit the local camera store's going-out-of-business sale.

Re:Polonium-210? What legitimate uses does it have (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978576)

You can actually buy small amounts of the stuff OTC, in the form of a "Staticmaster" brush for removing dust from film negatives or other sensitive surfaces.

http://www.2spi.com/catalog/photo/statmaster.shtml [2spi.com]

The alpha particles emitted from the source ionize the surrounding air, and neutralize any electrostatic charge holding dust particles to a surface.

Strange way of killing someone (4, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978436)

I don't understand why of all things, they were using Polonium-210 to kill him. Since that's not exactly something you buy over the counter, wouldn't there be "better" ways of killing him by poisoning without drawing as much attention? Only about 100 grams of Polonium, any isotope, is estimated to be produced yearly and it's extremely rare in nature. It's hard to imagine a better way of drawing attention to the government.

Not so strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978492)

If this was a public example, "they" want any defectors to know that they can and will be dealt with.

Re:Strange way of killing someone (2, Insightful)

bigberk (547360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978524)

It's hard to imagine a better way of drawing attention to the government.
Maybe that's the point of it: a message to others thinking of disgracing the state, "who do you THINK could use this to poison him, of course it's us". Kind of a classy (in a twisted psycho way) to do a state execution before the world's eyes That being said, I take anything in the media with a grain of salt. The west (incl UK) isn't exactly friendly to Russia. They would probably rather make it sound like a Russian hit given a chance

Re:Strange way of killing someone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978660)

Well, an eccentric coyote and a large anvil come to mind...

Yes, exactly, that is the reason (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978726)

This makes it bloody clear that someone with some real power (how else to get the stuff) wanted this person death AND succeeded. It sends a message. Cross us and you die and we don't give a shit who knows. You can kill someone to send the victim a message OR to everyone else who is aware of the killing.

Offcourse it might just as well be a setup. Someone who wants to make it look like it was Putin.

Frankly I don't know enough about the guy to make a guess wich one is the case but the use of an obvious method of execution is not that hard to explain. Because if it was Putin then so what. Will britain go to war over this? Even a mere trade war? Most likely not. If it was Putin this was a show of power. Basically saying,"we are still here and don't you forget it."

Offcourse the other option, that this is a setup to frame Putin is less likely but far more intresting. Russia is screwed up enough that Putin has lots of enemies in Russia itself and with its security system all messed up someone getting hold of a rare material is not that unimaginable.

So the question is, why would Putin want this guy dead so badly (more acuratly why would Putin want the world to know that he wanted this guy dead and succeeded) OR who wants to make it look like Putin killed this guy.

Ah, were is 007 when you need him?

What can say except.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978448)

...spying very danger-making

A modern day take on Thomas Dolby... (1)

IgLou (732042) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978506)

"She poisoned my with sci-ence"

If you thought that was bad I could have posted an obligatory Simpsons reference: "Mmmm, Polonium. D'OH!"

Polonium (4, Informative)

no-body (127863) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978518)

Polonium-210 is very dangerous to handle in even milligram or microgram amounts, and special equipment and strict control is necessary. Damage arises from the complete absorption of the energy of the alpha particle into tissue.


The maximum permissible body burden for ingested polonium is only 0.03 microcuries, which represents a particle weighing only 6.8 x 10-12 g. Weight for weight it is about 2.5 x 1011 times as toxic as hydrocyanic acid. The maximum allowable concentration for soluble polonium compounds in air is about 2 x 10-11 microcuries/cm3.


From: there [lanl.gov]


Soluble in acidic environment.
Apparently he was repeatedly invited by by an unkown russian person to drink tea....
A little sourness in tea with a few milligram of metal dissolved.


Re:Polonium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978652)

> A little sourness in tea with a few milligram of metal dissolved.

A few milligrams? Six point eight times ten to the power of minus twelve?

> 6.8 x 10-12 g

Your own figures show the lethal dose is closer to the weight of a single particle, consider a hydrogen atom weighs only around 1.7 x 10-24 g.

What an awful headline (4, Informative)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978532)

He wasn't poisoned by radiation in the UK, he was poisoned in the UK by radiation.

The former implies that it was the radiation present in the UK that poisoned him; the latter makes it clear that he happened to be in the UK when he was poisoned by radiation.

Re:What an awful headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978654)

No, that is the opposite of what everybody didn't mean. Which is to say yes.

I am surprised (1)

mike449 (238450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978542)

A couple of things are really, really strange.
First, if SVR/FSB wanted the death to look accidental, why would they use such deliberate method? Polonium poisoning just screams of a well-funded agency doing the job. Not covert at all. The only explanation is that they wanted it to be obvious, as a lesson to other guys. Then they might just admit "yeah, we did it", but they are denying everything.
Second, why it took so long for British to recognize obvious symptoms of radiation sickness? Nobody tried to check Litvinenko with a Geiger counter while he was alive, but after his death he was diagnosed instantly. This is just weird.
Both sides don't tell all they know. This is to be expected in a spy scandal, though.

Re:I am surprised (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978606)

Gosh yes, a geiger counter ! I bet they never thought of that, if I were you I'd get the first flight out the UK and apply for the job as Chief Lord High Sargent Major Of All Inspectors, they'll offer you the job for sure once they realise how talented you are.

They find out NOW? (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978586)

I've been wondering why his symptoms sounded so much like acute radiation poisoning since I first heard about this, and I don't even have any medical background. In a really suspicious case like this, one would think it would be obvious to test for radioactivity early on. It would have been really easy and completely non-invasive. Geiger counters sensitive enough to detect something like this are easy to come by, and hospitals have plenty of film badge dosimeters, etc. for ensuring the safety of radiomedicine workers. So why didn't they check him? It seems like this finally got discovered in a general urine test they conducted to try and identify the poison, rather than any attempt to measure radioactivity.

Borat did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16978600)

Learnings of the Russian politics for make benefit the glorious nation of the United Kingdom.

Polonium? Russians? (1)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 7 years ago | (#16978638)

I can't believe no one has said this. If this were a Dan Brown novel, the big mystical secret that it would take a university-trained "symbologist" to decipher is that the true culprit, the maleficent agent behind the poisoning was, not Russia, but ... (wait for it) ... Poland!
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