Poisoned by Polonium
(Бунт: Де́ло Литвине́нко)

This is footage from a different documentary, but refers to the same subject matter

Poisoned by Polonium (Бунт: Де́ло Литвине́нко)
Made in: Russia, UK
Language: Russian, German, French, English
Director: Andrei Nekrasov
Year: 2007

Synopsis: This is a documentary by filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, focusing on the poisoning and subsequent death of Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko was a controversial former Russian federal security agent who defected to the UK in 2000.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the branch of the KGB responsible for domestic security/law enforcement was renamed as the FSB. Officially recruited to the KGB in 1986, Litvinenko stayed on with the security service. In the 90s, he became a high ranking member of the FSB, specializing in counter-terrorism and infiltrating organized crime.

Through multiple interviews with Nekrasov, Litvinenko flat-out claims that the role of the FSB is not no much to serve and to protect the people, but to keep powerful government officials (like Vladimir Putin) in power by subverting the legal system, intimidating (or even murdering) critics of the Kremlin leadership, and instigating armed conflicts around the globe to help those at the top consolidate power.

Although disturbed by the FSB's ruthless methods, one of the turning points in Litvinenko's transformation to an open political dissident followed the horrifying 1999 apartment complex bombings in Moscow that killed over 300 people. Litvineko states that the bombing was actually planned and executed by the FSB, rather than Islamic extremists, and used as a pretext for the war in Chechnya.

Some time after his defection, he also claimed that the Moscow theatre hostage crisis of 2002 and 2004 Beslan School incident were all manufactured terrorist attacks orchestrated by the security services.

After going public with his allegations and claims against FSB leadership, most notably a plot to assassinate controversial business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko was ultimately dismissed from the security services by Vladimir Putin himself.

Eventually fearing for his safety, Litvinenko and his family fled Russia and were granted asylum in the UK. While there, it is widely believed that he worked as a consultant for MI-5 and MI-6 (Britain's domestic and overseas security service organizations, respectively).

In November of that year, Litvinenko suddenly became ill and was hospitalized. Within three weeks, he died, apparently from receiving over 200 times the lethal dose of polonium 210. The poisoning is considered an act of murder perpetrated by the FSB, and has strained relations between the UK and Russia.

Remarks: The central story of Poisoned by Polonium is very intriguing, and offers a dark, but not often talked-about side of modern Russian politics. It's sometimes challenging to keep up with all the players, such as former KGB/FSB agents, international politicians, businessmen, and other journalists. And at times, the pacing of the film is pretty slow.

But for those interested in Russia's history (and current struggles) as a police state, there's plenty of shocking information that's sure to spark discussion. 

Assuming Litvinenko's allegations are true, this documentary will likely leave you feeling depressed and cynical. As of this review, Poisoned by Polonium remains banned in Russia.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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