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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 08:18 GMT
The Litvinenko affair
On Sunday 04 February 2007, Andrew Marr interviewed Yuri Felshtinsky, Historian

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Yuri Felshtinsky
Yuri Felshtinsky, Historian

ANDREW MARR: My next guest is the co-author of a book that should contain a very serious health warning on the cover.

Two members of the Russian Parliament who were making a documentary based on its contents were gunned down, another member of the Duma who planned to publish extracts from the book was poisoned and of course, as we all know, the book's other author, the co-author Alexander Litvinenko died in November from radiation poisoning here in London.

Despite being warned by the FBI that a trip to the UK was too risky, I'm very glad to Yuri Felshtinsky has travelled from New York to be with us.

Thank you very much indeed for coming and taking this risk.

Now this is the book, still banned in Russia, and the central allegation in it I suppose is that there was a murderous plot by the Secret Service, we used to call them KGB, to kill a lot of people to ferment the war in Chechnya which also brought Putin to power.

Is that the key allegation?

YURI FELSHTINSKY: This is the key allegation, this is the first book since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's books which is prohibited in Russia.

The documentary which was done was also prohibited in Russia. And unfortunately a lot of people as you told, who were connected to his book were killed. Yes we claim that in September of 99 when terrorist acts took place in several cities in Russia...

ANDREW MARR: Blowing up apartments?

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Blowing up apartment buildings, killing 300 people which I believe is still the worst terrorist case for Russia yet. Yes we claim that this operation was organised by the Russian Secret Service.

ANDREW MARR: Now, it wasn't simply that, it was that this, by your account, brought Vladimir Putin to power. And he has pursued the authors of this book and the story ever since.

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Well, this is a historical fact, the historical fact is that the second Chechnian war was started the next day after the last attempt to blow up the building and that Putin came to power because he was kind of promoted by this event.

ANDREW MARR: Now, BBC interviewed Mr. Lugovoi in Moscow and asked him if he was the killer, the assassin who's used the Polonium to kill Litvinenko, and he perhaps not surprisingly said no. But you believe it was him, and you believe the Russian state was certainly behind this. Now, why? You had a conversation I think with a Russian general few years back.

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Well, first of all we have too much information now to claim that this was state-sponsored operation, that this was definitely an operation conducted by the Russian Secret Service, which is the FSB. I believe we know now at least two people who definitely participated in this operation - one is Mr. Lugovoi, another one is Mr. Kovtun, both of them are the FSB officers. I think there is a third person whom we still do not know, and who probably was the major player.

ANDREW MARR: And you actually saw Lugovoi in London by accident?

YURI FELSHTINSKY: By accident on 12 October when I came to London I met Lugovoi in Piccadilly Street. Ironically when I talked to Scotland Yard about this they told me that I am mistaken because they had no record of Lugovoi being in London on 12 October. And I submitted a whole bunch of proof for them...

ANDREW MARR: ...that he was...

YURI FELSHTINSKY: ...that he was here. But you were right, in 2000 in May I had conversation with the FSB general, discussing with him the fate of Alexander Litvinenko when Litvinenko was in Moscow.

And we basically knew that the FSB of course targeted him, and I went to negotiate the deals, whether there are any conditions under which the FSB would allow him to live a life, and quietly in Moscow.

And the general honestly explained me that there is no way Litvinenko would be left alone and he told me that, look, if I ever meet him again I will kill him with my own hands. And he was really strong man.

ANDREW MARR: I mean, we should emphasise that the Kremlin denies all of this, says they had nothing to do with it. And indeed Russian investigators are coming to this country probably to interview all sorts of Russian exiles here. They want to talk to Mr. Berezovsky and others.

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Well first of all, our Russian government of course denied always, everything, as they denied Trotsky murder participation. They denied the murder of the former president of Chechnya which was killed several years ago. And people were arrested and they happen to be from the Russian Secret Service. So this is no surprise at all that they deny it.

What is surprising probably was they are taking a very active surgical move coming here questioning, or planning to question hundred people in connection with their investigation of this murder. Also they know quite well that at least two people who actually participated in this murder, once again Kaftoon and Lugovoi, are walking free now in Moscow.

ANDREW MARR: But when, when the Russians, when the Kremlin say that you and your colleagues have an agenda that you want to get rid of Putin ultimately. That's true, isn't it?

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Well, we want to get rid of Putin not with, because we do not like his face or do not like his last name. We want to get rid of Putin because he created a system when our people are not safe, not only in Russia and in Moscow, but in London and in the Great Britain. And if they used British tea to kill a British citizen, what's going to happen next?

ANDREW MARR: The FBI told you not to leave, suggested to you that you should not leave America and come to Britain because it was too dangerous for you. Do you fear for your own personal safety now?

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Well, the security question always was an issue since we started to deal with this project. And as you know unfortunately there are deaths around in connection with this book.

But I think the question is not how safely I could live my life, I think the question is how safely we can live our live and again how London is safe for the British citizens first of all because I am here for a short time and you are here for the rest of your life.

ANDREW MARR: I hope. Yuri, thank you very much indeed, thank you for joining us.

YURI FELSHTINSKY: Thank you for the invitation.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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