2. Alexander Litvinenko
Okay, technically the “KGB” stopped existing shortly after the end of the Cold War. Still, the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 deserves a mention. Most likely -at least based on motive- Litvinenko was assassinated by or on the order of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the successor to the KGB’s international affairs.
Litvinenko was a former agent in the Federal Security Service (FSB), which was the successor to the KGB’s domestic operations unit. Specifically, Litvinenko was responsible investigating organized crime. Problem is, Litvinenko was good at his job and quickly found out that the Russian mafia and many officials within the Russian government were very closely intertwined.
Litvinenko tried to raise his concerns with the FSB’s top brass, but his allegations were ignored. This convinced him that the entire organization was corrupt. Regardless, Litvinenko kept pushing, and in 1998 he met with incoming FSB director Vladimir Putin. However, Putin also ignored Litvinenko’s allegations.
In 1998 Litvinenko tried to go to the press after Putin allegedly ordered a hit on another would-be reformer. Shortly thereafter Litvinenko was dismissed from the FSB by Putin himself, and ordered to remain in Moscow under the government’s watchful eye. Instead, in 2000 he fled to Turkey and then to the United Kingdom, where he was granted asylum on humanitarian grounds.
While in the United Kingdom, Litvinenko continued to raise concerns over the Russian government and its ties to organized crime. He also worked as a journalist. He apparently even worked with the MI6, helping the British agency fight organized Russian crime. In 2006, he became a naturalized British citizen.
For Russia, this was simply too much. Back in 2002 another former FSB agent had warned Litvinenko that he was a target. Four years later, on November 1st, 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell violently ill. Doctors quickly realized that he was suffering from radiation poisoning from the extremely rare radionuclide polonium-210.
Litvinenko revealed that earlier on the same day he had met with two “former” KGB agents, Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy. Authorities later found traces of radiation in Kovtun’s car and home. British authorities also found traces of radiation matching the polonium in Lugovoy’s hotel room.
Both had already fled the country, however, so British authorities couldn’t bring them to justice. The United Kingdom did request the extradition of Lugovoy, but Russia declined, and instead asked that the British hand over evidence so they could prosecute him.