A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin's War with the West (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

The fall of the Soviet Union left a power vacuum in which organized crime and former KGB agents coalesced in the newly capitalist state.The 2006 London assassination by poison of dissident Alexander Litivinenko served as a lethal threat to Russians who would defy the kleptocratic state and also displayed the willingness of some Western politicians to acquiesce to Putin's authoritarian regime in order to keep new Russian money flowing.Litvinenko had reported on the alliance of Russian mobsters and state actors and he was a potential witness in a related criminal case in Spain.Harding details multiple oafish poisoning attempts and recounts how Litvenenko, while dying in a London hospital, solved his own murder, and how Scotland Yard subsequently followed the radioactive trails to connect the dots.British politicians, however, slow-played the legal proceedings during a period of rapid investment and eventually dodged leveling punishments in deference to Russian capital and power. Over a decade later, as authoritarianism and bloated, predatory tyrants take root in Western governments, the brazenly public murder of Litvinenko may serve as the proverbial canary in the coalmine to those countries who acquiesce to strongmen who issue grave threats against free speech and the rule of law.

— Will


A true story of murder and conspiracy that points directly to Vladimir Putin, by The Guardian's former Moscow bureau chief.

On November 1, 2006, journalist and Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London. He died twenty-two days later. The cause of death? Polonium--a rare, lethal, and highly radioactive substance. Here Luke Harding unspools a real-life political assassination story--complete with KGB, CIA, MI6, and Russian mobsters. He shows how Litvinenko's murder foreshadowed the killings of other Kremlin critics, from Washington, DC, to Moscow, and how these are tied to Russia's current misadventures in Ukraine and Syria. In doing so, he becomes a target himself and unearths a chain of corruption and death leading straight to Vladimir Putin. From his investigations of the downing of flight MH17 to the Panama Papers, Harding sheds a terrifying light on Russia's fracturing relationship with the West.

About the Author

Luke Harding is an award-winning foreign correspondent with The Guardian. Between 2007 and 2011 he was the Guardian's Moscow bureau chief; the Kremlin expelled him from the country in the first case of its kind since the Cold War.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781101973998
ISBN-10: 1101973994
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 480
Language: English