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Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun Interview on Ekho Moskvy

The Wall Street Journal has published some translated excerpts from an Ekho Moskvy interview with Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. Complete transcript in Russian available here. lugovoi.JPGkovtun.jpg

Host: What are the parameters of your partnership with Mr. Litvinenko? Lugovoi: …We’ve known each other for 10 years. However, before he left the country we just knew each other, we were acquainted, nothing more. We had neither business, nor personal contacts. He communicated with Boris Berezovsky and during that period I headed the security service of the public Russian television [ORT], and Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky] was the major shareholder of ORT then, so, naturally, I met with him [Litvinenko] to a certain extent. Then he left the country, and there were no contacts, no communications. Approximately a year ago he phoned me, and this was an absolutely unexpected call. He asked whether I ever come to London. Yes, I visit London quite frequently. I was there on 12, 13 occasions this year. He suggested that we should meet the next time I visit London. We met. He told me that he was ready to introduce me to certain British companies. Due to ethical considerations I’d rather not name them now. These are the companies which are interested in the Russian market, in investing in the Russian economy. After I told him about my business he decided that I could be of interest to them, could be useful to them. On the other hand I also take a certain interest in Britain. That’s why, so to speak, our relations were limited to the following: Whenever my meetings with business partners were prepared and I came to London he accompanied me and attended these meetings, because he thought he could earn money in these situations, as well. Most likely, he wanted to try himself in business. Host: What was Litvinenko’s sphere of activities, what did he do? Lugovoi: I don’t have any idea about what he did, with the exception of what we discussed with him. Moreover, you have to understand, that in spite of the fact that over the past two to three years there wasn’t much talk about him … maybe he was already … Nevertheless, a certain plume of scandal always existed. I tried not to go beyond the scope of business issues in my relations with him. Host: So you didn’t ask him personal questions? Lugovoi: I never asked him personal questions, and, frankly speaking, he didn’t bother me [about that] either. … Host: Did Litvinenko seem to you a person who was concerned or scared of something? Kovtun: You know … how to put it better … Certainly there was a slight shade of paranoia. But nothing more than that. Host: What’s that? Please, explain. Kovtun: There was some nervousness, tension in his behavior. …. Host: Can you tell us about your last meeting on Nov. 1? How did it go? Lugovoi: Very simply. On Nov. 1, I met with Dmitry [Kovtun] to talk about our project. By the way it wasn’t far from the hotel. I had a telephone conversation with Alexander [Litvinenko], he knew that I was coming to London. I don’t remember one thing: who phoned whom on the morning of Nov. 1. In the course of our telephone conversation he suggested that we should meet the same day — on Nov. 1. I told him: “Listen, I’ll meet with [Dmitry] today, then we’ll attend a soccer game, and I’ll be with my family [there].” There were plans to have a dinner before the soccer game, the pre-game, as we say in our soccer crowd. It’s when gentlemen get together and drink beer, whisky, gin. And after a soccer game they also meet — for a post-game. However, he [Litvinenko] insisted: “Let’s meet today, because I need to talk to you.” I answered: “OK. But we’ll meet in the hotel and only briefly.” I came there with Dmitry, we called him, because we expected him [Litvinenko] to be in the hotel already, and we came a couple of minutes earlier. We sat down, ordered only some drinks to ourselves, no meals … We drank something … I think it was gin, something like that. He called me and said that he was there. I think that I even went to the entrance to meet him. We sat down. Host: You don’t remember now, or do you? Lugovoi: I cannot tell you for certain. I wrote about it in the British Embassy very simply: “I think that there are video cameras in the hotel, please, pay immediate attention to this fact to avoid extra questions.” I emphasized this. We sat down and talked for 20 to 30 minutes. I can assure you with 100% certainty that he didn’t order anything, and we didn’t offer anything to him either. Host: So, he didn’t eat anything during this meeting? Lugovoi: Neither did we. The point is that my family went on an excursion with Vyacheslav [Sokolenko], and we were waiting for them to return, to change clothes for something warmer, for sweaters … After that we planned to have dinner — around [5 or 6 p.m.] — before the soccer game. By the way, we did have a dinner in Piccadilly … in a steak house, and after that we went [to a soccer game]. So I can tell you that he ordered nothing, that we poured no drinks for him, and as regards more details, I, as a matter of fact, cannot recall any. Although, when we meet with the British police we’ll certainly analyze this meeting in detail…. Host: If it’s all that simple, what is there to analyze? Lugovoi: They will certainly ask us which table we sat at and where exactly each of us was sitting. I must tell you that during this meeting my eight-year-old son ran to our table and I introduced Alexander to him. We stood there for some time talking and joking. Afterwards we left [the hotel] together … I think that my wife was standing right here. She knew Alexander and she greeted him. We agreed that … Yes, it’s true, he came there. We didn’t discuss anything in particular. He said that tomorrow we’d meet at 10:00. And I told him: “Sash, you could have told me about it on the phone, we could have arranged a meeting.” The next day he called me at 7:30 in the morning, when I was just waking up. And he told me … but I’ve already told you about it. … Host: So, you asked him [Litvinenko] to keep politics out of the course of your joint activities? Lugovoi: I didn’t ask him about it. I simply told him one thing: “Sash, you have to understand one simple thing. If the proposals which you are trying to implement, are finally implemented, you need to make a principal decision: What do you want to do with your life?” Host: Why did you tell him this? You suggested that he should make a choice? Lugovoi: Why did I tell him this? Because, first of all, he after all … made really serious statements earlier. He formally … Although I said that there were no court rulings … and that everything related to his flight from Russia … whether it was betrayal or not … technically, it could be anything. No business would like to be involved with anything even slightly crime-related. Existence of criminal cases etc. — in any event, it’s a crime-related issue. Not from the point of view of politics, but from the point of view of mere existence. If any Western company starts business with someone and then understands that there are some law-related problems, it’s not good. It’s like that in any country. I had such problems myself when in 2002 it became known to everyone that I had spent one year and two months in Lefortovo [a Moscow prison, after being accused of conspiring to help a critic of Putin escape from prison]. I had problems.