Andrey Lugovoy, a former KGB officer

Andrey Lugovoy
Former KGB officer
1965 - Born in Moscow
1987 - Graduates, Moscow College for Commanders of the Supreme Soviet of Russia
1987 - Joins KGB 9th Directorate
1992 - Transferred to Federal Protection Service
1997 - Head of Security, ORT Television Company, Moscow
2001 - Head and co-owner, Group of Companies 9th Val         
2005 - Co-owner, Pershin, Russia's largest manufacturer of kvass
 
Andrey Lugovoy is a former KGB officer and also worked for the Federal Security Service of Russia. He was born into a Ministry of Defence background, as his father was an officer there. After graduating from the Moscow College for Commanders of the Supreme Soviet of Russia, which was one of the Soviet army’s oldest educational institutions, he started with the KGB 9th directorate, in charge of the personal security of high-ranking state officials. He was a platoon commander for five years and then served as a commander in the Kremlin regiment training company. In 1991, he was transferred to the personal security unit until his resignation at the end of 1996. During his time in the KGB, he provided security for Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, the head of the presidential administration Sergey Filatov and Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev. Andrey Lugovoy’s company Pershin which is Russia's largest manufacturer of kvass - a traditional drink, flavoured with fruit or herbs and known as "children's beer" for its low alcohol content – is involved in private security, soft drinks and wine, and is said to be worth £100 million.
 
Aleksandr Gurnov: Let’s start from a concrete question. British newspapers openly call you the main suspect in the Litvinenko murder case. So, in this connection, has the British justice officially charged you? And if it has, what kind of charges are those?

Andrey Lugovoy: Well, I would like to answer this as follows. Indeed, the British media and some respected newspapers in particular have published my picture captioned “Suspect” on their front pages.

A.G.: Before that you were considered to be a witness, weren’t you?

A.L.: Yes. A TV company even published my picture on its web site with a caption “Wanted”. I must say that both back two months ago, and as of today, I was and still am a witness. There are no official charges against me. And I hope will never be as I have never been told I was charged by the British justice. So, all these are just conjectures of the British press based on rumours and unreliable information which some unscrupulous journalists are using, unfortunately.

A.G.: All right. Boris Berezovsky whose name has often been mentioned in connection to this case and he may be more informed than some British journalists, as I suppose, said recently that he was ready to hire or had already hired very expensive British lawyers for you to be able to defend yourself in court, right? Do you know anything about this?

A.L.: I can only say that when I saw press reports with his statements I thought that in this case it would be better if he himself bothered to explain his statements to me. I made a phone call to him, on my own, on the 6th of February, in the evening. I called to his office and was promptly put through. I had the impression that he was surprised by my call. To my question as what his statements meant he said those were not his statements but he was only quoting Litvinenko’s words. In essence, they meant that Litvinenko confirmed that he and I had met on the 1st of November and that he did not rule out my involvement in this. Boris Abramovich stressed it was not his personal stance, but the stance, or rather the words of Litvinenko. What’s more, Boris Abramovich said if he had written down a list of persons who could be suspects in this case, he would have put my name on the bottom of it.

A.G.: You must know Berezovsky quite well.

A.L.: Yes, I have known him since 1993, more than 15 years already and I can call him at any moment, so can he call me any time in turn – to ask a question, for example.

A.G.: You were the Head of Security of the ORT TV channel as Channel One was called then.

A.L.: Absolutely so.

A.G.: At that time, Berezovsky actually owned the channel.

A.L.: He was the main stake-holder and from 1 January 1997 I headed the Security Department of this Public Russian Television channel. I must say that I did not have direct contacts with him at that time as I worked with the ORT management. It was only in 1999 when Boris Abramovich decided to run for Russian State Duma member from a single-seat constituency of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, that he approached me for advice on security and asked me to form a unit to deal with his personal security.

A.G.: Does this mean that you did have personal relations with him and have preserved them?

A.L.: We certainly did have personal relations.

A.G.: What kind of relationship? Was it one with kind feelings towards each other or just mere co-operation?

A.L.: It was just co-operation. Let me stress that I was manager in a company he had stakes in, so I would call these relations business-like rather than personal.

A.G.: Were they good?

A.L.: They were. But starting from 2001 even the business-like relations ceased, because of his interests.

A.G.: It’s interesting, that according to Berezovsky, it was Litvinenko himself who named you as a suspect in the murder attempt.

A.L.: Indeed. Boris Abramovich referred to Litvinenko. I have many questions in this connection as well as to many statements allegedly made by Litvinenko before he died. So far, we have only statements from people who heard those statements. It’s very surprising that no audio or video recordings are available on this or that statement – you know what I mean. I talked to Litvinenko on the 13th November, when he was already in grave a condition – he did not say anything of the kind to me, which gives me reason not to fully trust the statements of certain people in this connection.

A.G.: Do you think he would have said this if he had suspected you?

A.L.: We had a five-minute conversation. What’s more, we were planning our meeting in Spain and he asked me to postpone that meeting due to his poor health, which I was actually going to do, to enable us see each other. I can only say that all these reports come from the media, and I am only surprised that it was only when it was reported about Litvinenko’s having been put in an intensive-care ward, that my name appeared. Before that moment it had not appeared in any way and had not been linked with the case, although everybody knew I had met him on the First of November.

A.G.: So, the criminal investigation is over, and Scotland Yard has passed it on to the prosecutor’s office. Please tell us, Mr Lugovoy, do you know anything about the results of that investigation. They came to Moscow and you met them and talked to them somehow, didn’t you?

A.L.: I can say the following. Firstly, yes, they did come and we did meet. And let me tell how it was for real, but not how it was covered by the British media with their allegations that the Russian prosecutor’s office did not let us meet, and that the meetings lasted from 15 to 20 minutes and that the investigators could ask all the questions. It’s all lies.

A.G.: Were the meetings long?

A.L.: They lasted for hours and more than once.

A.G.: Were they interrogations, or just conversations?

A.L.: Those were interrogations. It was the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office who interrogated me, with the British colleagues present, following a list of questions compiled by the English side. What’s more, the English investigators were free to ask any question.

A.G.: In addition.

A.L.: As an example, I can say that my wife is also listed as a witness in this case who saw Litvninenko on the First of November for not more than 30 seconds, and she was interrogated for more then ten hours.

A.G.: She must have gone by your side as you were sitting in a bar and told you something about shopping.

A.L.: Yeah, yeah. So, she was interrogated for more than ten hours. It means that the approach to interrogating us was substantial. I must say that in the past three months we have received no official document from the British investigators in Scotland Yard.

A.G.: You personally, or who?

A.L.: Me, Kovtun, my wife and other witnesses, also my children, incidentally, who had also been interrogated as witnesses. I mean, we received no official documents from Britain. What’s more, we’ve been trying to do this somehow. More than once I have called  Scotland Yard on my own. We tried and succeeded to find out the address of the Royal Prosecutor’s Office, because we would like to understand what was really going on. We were also negotiating with respected UK law companies to organise legal interaction for them to protect our interests and to seek, and eventually understand, what legal status we have. During the meetings though, the English investigators emphasised we were witnesses.

A.G.: Mr Lugovoy, I see it so that the main suspicion against you in the Litvinenko case is connected with the fact that you happened to be one of the last people whom Litvinenko had met before he began to feel unwell and all that story with his being put into hospital, the intensive-care ward, and so on and so forth. Please tell us, as far as I understand it, in many places you had personally been to in London, traces of that Polonium were found later, right? Have you been tested for radiation as you may have received a dosage of it yourself?

A.L.: First of all, I spent three weeks in a Moscow clinic where I was tested, including for the purpose to find out whether I had been affected by Polonium-210.

A.G.: What did the screening show?

A.L.: Unfortunately, I cannot so far tell what it showed, because the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has been conducting a criminal investigation into the fact of the attempt on the life of Dmitry Kovtun, and the results of the investigation of our state of health is the objective of the investigation. Besides, as of today, there has been a forensic examination under way, the results of which I believe will be available within a fortnight and they will be known to the prosecution. I do not want to say anything before the results of the examination are made known.

A.G.: You would not want it, or are you banned to speak?

A.L.: I would not want to, because we are bound with our written obligation of non-disclosure, in accordance with Article 310 of the Russian Federation’s Criminal Code.

A.G.: So, you’re banned to comment.

A.L.: We are banned to comment on any activity linked with the prosecution as in this or that respect it may affect the investigation.

A.G.: But as for the fact that you know – does it raise your concern?

A.L.: No, it doesn’t. As of today, it rather gives me more confidence in my stance than raises concern. As for the suspicion itself, once again, I want to draw your attention to the fact that all these suspicions have been created by the press, sorry. What’s more, I think they are rather linked not with the fact that the traces of Polonium were found or that I met Litvinenko, but with the fact that 20 years ago I served in the KGB, the Soviet secret service, and this is the primary thing that raised interest among British journalists. They linked everything – the KGB, Lugovoy, the Kremlin, Putin and Litvinenko’s death.

A.G.: Litvinenko served in the KGB, too, didn’t he?

A.L.: He did. But if we start fetching all the people who have served in the KGB or other special service, in such a way, then it will be problematic to draw any appropriate conclusions.

A.G.: On the other hand, you say you go to London on business quite often as your owned a company which is engaged in manufacturing  kvas, the traditional Russian beverage, what does it have to do with England. Why London, why Litvinenko?

A.L.: As a matter of fact, we need to change some key points. I own a company, a group of companies called Devyaty Val, or “Decuman Wave”. It’s my core business dealing with providing security for people. This group of companies includes several agencies providing such security services, as well as companies providing technical assistance and legal advice. We are working in Russia, Ukraine and some other countries.

A.G.: What about the kvas? Is it all over?

A.L.: The kvas is quite a different topic. This business is connected exclusively with Russia and the beverage kvas has nothing to do with England.

A.G.: So England attracts you when you deal with security issues?

A.L.: Yes. England has been attracting me in terms of security, because I have many partners who live there, that is one point. Also, as for England, the plant that I used to own, by the way, but quitted the business not long ago by selling my shares, so, it was a very powerful plant which needed huge investments. So I met many people in this connection, also in London, in search of investments into this and a number of other businesses of mine.

A.G.: Aleksandr Litvinenko had been living abroad quite long, like an émigré as a matter of fact. Could you, as a former employee of the KGB and its successor, the Federal Security Service, the FSB, a person who is inclined towards analysis, tell us as to who could actually have needed to kill him? Was there any expediency for anyone to do this, if we don’t take into account personal motives? In Russia, for the Kremlin, for London, well, I don’t know…

A.L.: You know, as far as I know, Aleksandr Litvinenko was engaged in quite a lot of things that could have raised questions, as I see this, including those in England.

A.G.: Since he stopped being officially employed by the security service?

A.L.: Absolutely so. I think he was engaged in some issues that any person of common sense would think twice before starting to do them.

A.G.: For instance?

A.L.: Sorry, I can’t say, because I have conveyed all my conjectures to the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office. And to their English counterparts. It is a vector they can use in their investigation.

A.G.: They are pondering who might have profited from this?

A.L.: A motive should be placed on the top in such an important case, I think, as to whom it might have been advantageous, and who and why might have done this.

A.G.: Do you think the English investigators have an idea about a possible motive?

A.L.: No. I think that by the moment they met me in December they had no idea, at least I could not feel this. The other thing is that after that they interrogated a great number of witnesses, including us, and we proposed them some options.

A.G.: Litvinenko’s ex-head called him a traitor. Perhaps this also raises suspicion againt you, according to logic, that if he is a traitor then the KGB/FSB should get rid of him? Do you consider him a traitor?

A.L.: You know, I would not be so categorical about him as a traitor, merely because, as far as I know, when he was about to leave Russia, he was not persecuted in this relation and there are no criminal cases instituted thereof, like because of treason, espionage and the like. As far as the statement by his former head is concerned, I am very cautious about statements by those who took part in that notorious press conference, just because that I am not quite sure about the stance of those people and their motivation that urged them to take part in it. I would leave this without any comment.

A.G.: All right, let’s leave this without a comment and come back to your last meeting with him. You mentioned that you were discussing to agree about a new meeting and did not feel any caution or alarm in him. Although the meeting was rather short, still, however – two former employees of the same secret agency can feel, can’t they?

A.L.: What I can say to this is that it is simply difficult to answer your question about this single meeting. In the year that had passed before that, we had met more than 12 times. All our meetings had only one purpose – he was a person who could recommend my companies to some very important and well-known respected companies. All our conversations used to be around this subject.

A.G.: He was someone who made you connected, a kind of a middle-man.

A.L.: Connected you say?. This word may sound too narrowly. He was our agent. We used to agree that he would recommend me to someone, like he would recommend companies to me. And should a contract was drawn, he would receive his commission.

A.G.: I understand why Boris Berezovsky hired you in his time. In Russia, being a former KGB or FSB employee is a good recommendation for a person who is about security. When you come to England and say, “I am a former KGB employee,” – is it a good recommendation or are people somehow cautious about you?

A.L.: I must tell you that in England, it’s the same as in Russia where former employees of secret or security services, like the Federal Security Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs or Ministry of Defence are mostly engaged in such business. I had a feeling that in England, it’s quite the same as people who have served it their secret services, are in this business. It is the same what I could see when I met many business people in the USA, France and Israel. As a rule, all of them have served in the secret services of their respected countries. It is obvious, isn’t it?

A.G.: All right. I am not going to ask you, because even if you do think something about this, you would not say all together, referring to your obligations before the prosecutor’s office, but still… My other question is … well, I won’t ask you about who has killed him… why was it necessary to kill him in such an exotic way? There are several leads, one of them being that it was done deliberately to make it look like a show as it reminds us of a prick with an umbrella – you know what I mean when it’s about England.

A.L.: A Bulgarian dissident was killed so.

A.G.: Why this Polonium? Was it a demonstration? Intimidation? Or was it done just to kill?

A.L.: Let me be frank. It is what I have been thinking about, and I don’t have a clear understanding of it. All my life I have been doing things related to people’s security, but not to things related to other activity, even during my being employed by the secret service. I can’t say anything about it.

A.G.: So, you can’t even imagine why such an exotic manner was chosen?

A.L.: I can list exactly the same things you have mentioned. It may have been an intimidation – for someone, although not clear for whom, or it may have been just an accident, or it may have been done, as it has been said much recently, to get the investigation off the tracks.

A.G.: It is said that shortly before his death Litvinenko passed a certain package with documents compromising the Kremlin on to someone and that may have caused his death. And he may have passed them on not to Berezovsky but to Nevzlin. Do you know anything about this, and to what extent may this have influenced Litvinenko’s fate and to what degree may have he held any serious documents that are sensitive for the Kremlin?

A.L.: I can’t say anything about any documents that are compromising for someone. Whether he could have held such documents, I think he could. In my view, he was in touch with many people from Russia and elsewhere, so he may have had something. However, as to what kind of documents were those and to what extent they could have been of a serious character, it is nothing I know of.

A.G.: What kind of a man was it, in your opinion? Did he… deserve death? Or was he a good guy, your comrade?

A.L.: First thing, he had never been my comrade. We had always had only business relations and nothing personal – and I have always made it a point, the more so that business is quite a cynical thing. As to whether he “deserved” death, I can say that no one on this Earth deserves death.