Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB

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The assassination of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander "Sasha" Litvinenko in November 2006 -- poisoned by the rare radioactive element polonium -- caused an international sensation. Within a few short weeks, the fit forty-three-year-old lay gaunt, bald, and dying in a hospital, the victim of a "tiny nuclear bomb." Suspicions swirled around Russia's FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Putin regime. Traces of polonium radiation were found in Germany and on certain airplanes, suggesting a travel route from Russia for the carriers of the fatal poison. But what really happened? What did Litvinenko know? And why was he killed?

The full story of Sasha Litvinenko's life and death is one that the Kremlin does not want told. His closest friend, Alex Goldfarb, and his widow, Marina, are the only two people who can tell it all, from firsthand knowledge, with dramatic scenes from Moscow to London to Washington. Death of a Dissident reads like a political thriller, yet its story is more fantastic and frightening than any novel.

Ever since 1998, when Litvinenko denounced the FSB for ordering him to assassinate tycoon Boris Berezovsky, he had devoted his life to exposing the FSB's darkest secrets. After a dramatic escape to London with Goldfarb's assistance, he spent six years, often working with Goldfarb, investigating a widening series of scandals. Oligarchs and journalists have been assassinated. Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko was poisoned on the campaign trail. The war in Chechnya became unspeakably harsh on both sides. Sasha Litvinenko investigated all of it, and he denounced his former employers in no uncertain terms for their dirty deeds.

Death of a Dissident opens a window into the dark heart of the Putin Kremlin. With its strong-arm tactics, tight control over the media, and penetration of all levels of government, the old KGB is back with a vengeance. Sasha Litvinenko dedicated his life to exposing this truth. It took his diabolical murder for the world to listen.
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About the author

Alex Goldfarb, Ph.D., was a dissident scientist who left Russia in the 1970s, joining the faculty of Columbia University. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he went to work for George Soros directing charitable initiatives in Russia. He befriended Alexander Litvinenko in the 1990s. Goldfarb later helped Litvinenko work on his memoirs and supported his efforts to expose the abuses of the newly ascendant FSB. Goldfarb is currently the executive director of the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, set up by Boris Berezovsky as an umbrella group for human-rights activists.

Marina Litvinenko first met Alexander at her thirty-first birthday party, in 1993, when he was a young officer in the FSB. They married and she gave birth to a son thereafter. In 2000, the three of them sought asylum in the United Kingdom, and she continues to live in London with her twelve-year-old son.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
May 11, 2010
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781416560760
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Anna Politkovskaya, one of Russia’s most fearless journalists, was gunned down in a contract killing in Moscow in the fall of 2006. Just before her death, Politkovskaya completed this searing, intimate record of life in Russia from the parliamentary elections of December 2003 to the grim summer of 2005, when the nation was still reeling from the horrors of the Beslan school siege. In A Russian Diary, Politkovskaya dares to tell the truth about the devastation of Russia under Vladimir Putin–a truth all the more urgent since her tragic death.
Writing with unflinching clarity, Politkovskaya depicts a society strangled by cynicism and corruption. As the Russian elections draw near, Politkovskaya describes how Putin neutralizes or jails his opponents, muzzles the press, shamelessly lies to the public–and then secures a sham landslide that plunges the populace into mass depression. In Moscow, oligarchs blow thousands of rubles on nights of partying while Russian soldiers freeze to death. Terrorist attacks become almost commonplace events. Basic freedoms dwindle daily.

And then, in September 2004, armed terrorists take more than twelve hundred hostages in the Beslan school, and a different kind of madness descends.
In prose incandescent with outrage, Politkovskaya captures both the horror and the absurdity of life in Putin’s Russia: She fearlessly interviews a deranged Chechen warlord in his fortified lair. She records the numb grief of a mother who lost a child in the Beslan siege and yet clings to the delusion that her son will return home someday. The staggering ostentation of the new rich, the glimmer of hope that comes with the organization of the Party of Soldiers’ Mothers, the mounting police brutality, the fathomless public apathy–all are woven into Politkovskaya’s devastating portrait of Russia today.

“If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the ‘optimistic’ forecast, let them do so,” Politkovskaya writes. “It is certainly the easier way, but it is also a death sentence for our grandchildren.”

A Russian Diary is testament to Politkovskaya’s ferocious refusal to take the easier way–and the terrible price she paid for it. It is a brilliant, uncompromising exposé of a deteriorating society by one of the world’s bravest writers.

Praise for Anna Politkovskaya
“Anna Politkovskaya defined the human conscience. Her relentless pursuit of the truth in the face of danger and darkness testifies to her distinguished place in journalism–and humanity. This book deserves to be widely read.”
–Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent, CNN

“Like all great investigative reporters, Anna Politkovskaya brought forward human truths that rewrote the official story. We will continue to read her, and learn from her, for years.”
–Salman Rushdie

“Suppression of freedom of speech, of expression, reaches its savage ultimate in the murder of a writer. Anna Politkovskaya refused to lie, in her work; her murder is a ghastly act, and an attack on world literature.”
–Nadine Gordimer

“Beyond mourning her, it would be more seemly to remember her by taking note of what she wrote.”
–James Meek


From the Hardcover edition.
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