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Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File (2007)

Bunt. Delo Litvinenko (original title)
This documentary follows ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko from his forced exile from Russia, to his death from poisoning in November of 2006.



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Credited cast:
Alexander Litvinenko ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Aleksandr Litvinenko)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Boris Berezovsky ...
André Glucksmann ...
Marina Litvinenko ...
Andrei Lugovoi ...
Anna Politkovskaya ...
Herself (archive footage)


The dark secret of the Kremlin unravel in this story of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko poisoned lat November in London told in his own words and in never seen before footage and interviews with his widow, his friends and his alleged killers. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

31 August 2007 (Poland)  »

Also Known As:

Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,402 (USA) (21 March 2008)


$4,293 (USA) (20 June 2008)

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Effective as anti-FSB propaganda
20 April 2008 | by (Turkey) – See all my reviews

This film was effective in showing the scary nature of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the KGB, but it did nothing to help solve the murder of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko. It is a kind of "J'accuse" work that doesn't produce any evidence to back up its accusation besides presenting credible testimony about the corruption, brutality and even murderousness of FSB functionaries, and showing Litvinenko himself making a lot of these allegations on camera.

But this forms the entire basis of the film's case against Litvinenko's former FSB colleagues. There is no examination of how the polonium-210 wound up in Litvinenko's system. Andrei Lugovoy, who is now sought by the British police as a suspect, is interviewed, and talks about polonium-210. He and his monosyllabic sidekick do look rather creepy, but that is all, and when they offer the interviewer a cup of tea, there is a black comedy moment.

This is an indictment of Russia's "Chekists" (spooks), who supposedly run Russia as evidenced by the fact that one of their own, Vladimir Putin, is Russia's president. The logic runs as follows: there is a lot of murder and corruption in Russia, Putin is president, Putin is ex-KGB, therefore the ex-KGB are responsible for all the murder and corruption. This is not, incidentally, a fanciful notion. Russia is very corrupt and former Soviet security service officials are in places of high power in government and industry. But it does not necessarily follow that Putin ordered Litvinenko's murder, and this film fails to convince.

In fact, interesting theories arise when one poses the question: qui bono? Who stood to gain most by Litvinenko's murder? If Litvinenko fled Russia and continued his fierce accusations against Putin and the Russian regime, and then was assassinated, the finger would naturally point at the Kremlin. As it happened, condemnation was directed at the Russian government from around the world, which greatly benefited exiled Russian oligarch and fierce Kremlin opponent Boris Berezovsky, with whom Litvinenko had associated before he died. Could Berezovsky have killed Litvinenko? I was actually left with the impression that the director, Andrei Nekrasov, intended at least to hint at this possibility.

The film essentially points the finger at Putin and the FSB for the apartment bombings in Russia in 1999, which were blamed on the Chechens. These bombings served as the pretext for renewed war against Chechnya, and the blitz propelled Putin into the presidency. The theory—which is very believable—is that the apartment bombings were part of a Chekist plot to replace the ailing Boris Yeltsin with the authoritarian Vladimir Putin, thus securing the security services' hold over the Russian political system. Berezovsky has made these very allegations from the safety of his estate in England, yet a closer look at the history of these incidents reveals that Berezovsky himself was part of the cabal that helped Putin to power. It was only after Putin became president that Berezovsky fled to Britain, having been betrayed by the new regime.

If the pro-Putin clique and Berezovsky were jointly culpable in the 1999 apartment bombings, it would perhaps be more difficult for the Putin regime to publicly accuse Berezovsky than vice-versa. It would automatically invite the question: how do you know? How would the Russian regime present evidence of Berezovsky's complicity in a terrorist acts without at the same time implicating itself?

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