The poisoned Russian spy breathed
defiance at the Kremlin as the effects of a mystery cocktail pushed him
towards his death last night.
“I want to survive, just to show
them,” Alexander Litvinenko said in an exclusive interview given just
hours before he died.
Too weak to move his limbs and visibly
in great pain, the former Russian intelligence officer suggested that
he knew he may not win his struggle against the lethal chemicals
destroying his vital organs. But he said the campaign for truth would
go on with or without him.
“The bastards got me,” he whispered.
“But they won’t get everybody.”
Mr Litvinenko, 43, uttered his last
defiant words to Andrei Nekrasov, a friend and film-maker, who had
visited him in University College Hospital in London every day this
week. Last night Mr Nekrasov described the extraordinary scenes in
hospital, where one ward looks like a scene from The Godfather.
“Sasha was a good-looking, physically
strong and courageous man,” Mr Nekrasov told The Times. “But the figure
who greeted me looked like a survivor from the Nazi concentration
Moments after he saw his friend pass
away, Mr Nekrasov said: “I have been through a few things in Russia and
Chechnya, but this is one of the most horrible crimes I have witnessed
in my my life.”
“It was sadistic, slow murder. It was
perpetrated by somebody incredibly cruel, incredibly heartless. It had
no meaning whatsover.”
Although Mr Nekrasov had seen Mr
Litvinenko sometimes more than once a day, Tuesday was the last
occasion on which his friend could communicate properly. Yet in his
final remarks, the former spy remained defiant in his battle against
President Putin and the Russian security services.
He also managed a joke at his own
expense, suggesting that his poisoning was proof that his campaign
against the Kremlin had targeted the right people. “This is what it
takes to prove one has been telling the truth,” he said.
He was referring to allegations he
made in a book, The FSB Blows up Russia, which accuses the
Russian security services of causing a series of apartment block
explosions in Moscow in 1999 that helped to propel Mr Putin into the
Last night in Moscow, Andrei Lugovoi,
the former Kremlin bodyguard who has been accused of carrying out the
poisoning, told The Times that he was not involved and that he
was prepared to travel to London to prove his innocence.
Doctors remained baffled about what Mr
Litvinenko ingested on November 1, at one of two meetings with Russian
contacts. Geoff Bellingan, director of critical care at University
College Hospital, said that doctors were now convinced that the cause
was not a heavy metal such as thallium, as originally suspected. Nor
had he swallowed any mystery objects. “Radiation poisoning is also
unlikely,” he said.
Andrea Sella, a chemistry expert at
University College, said that it had become increasingly difficult to
identify the poison. “They have to find some unspecified poison. They
don’t know whether it is a single substance or a mixture.”
Mr Nekrasov revealed that Mr
Litvinenko’s British citizenship had come through on the day of a
service at Westminster Abbey for Anna Politkovskaya, a friend and
critic of the Kremlin murdered in Moscow.
“We discussed the likelihood of another
killing. Sasha warned me not to go back to Russia because it was too
dangerous,” Mr Nekrasov said. “Very sadly he turned out to be the next
victim, attacked in the perceived safety of Central London.”
Last night, Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent
who defected to Britain, told Sky News: “It’s very sad news because he
was a hero to Russia and a hero to Great Britain. He loved Britain as
much as he loved Russia.”
An aide to Mr Putin said: “Of course
it’s a human tragedy. A person was poisoned. But the accusations
against the Kremiln are so incredible, so silly, that the President