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Don’t touch it: Nerve Agents are Cherry-Picked in Russia

Had it been a mystery if Ivan K. Kivelidi’s (Russian banker) secretary would have not died of the same symptoms as him, apparently the poison had been spread through an office telephone handset. Poison, though redolent of medieval intrigue, has been a favored tool of Russian intelligence agencies for more than quite a few decades. According to some analysts this weapon remains in use even today. It may be a toxin-lethal to touch or simply mixed in someone’s cup of tea, one thing is for sure, it has almost never missed a target.

Who operates the most toxic chemicals on Earth?

Viktor Yushchenko (then President of Ukraine) was poisoned intentionally during the presidential election campaign of Ukraine. During his treatment, doctors found a substance in his blood — a highly venomous dioxin of the type 2,3,7,8-TCDD (Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) that a Russian poison factory had successfully experimented with in the past. Even before the news broke out about the toxic compound having been found, professionals already found cryptic parallels to the past work of the "Kamera," or "Laboratory No. 12". This appreciably innovative research institution began its life in a secluded corner of Lenin's Cheka in 1921.

Kamera's innovations — poisonous biological and toxic chemical nerve agents — have been constantly progressive over the years as advancing science and technology keep opening up new possibilities. Kamera’s innovations are desperately specialized, and customized for each recipient to cause the coveted effect — usually death or handicapness (disability) — in various unique ways. But one thing is constant in their design. The death or illness of the victim must appear natural or at least produce symptoms that will disorient the doctors and forensic investigators. To this end the Kamera developed its defining quality : “combining known poisons into original and untraceable forms.”

President Yushchenko's illness created just the similar confusing symptoms that would characterize a poison produced inside the Kamera laboratory. It took weeks to bring out the rigorous results that caused the Ukrainian democratic leader's ailments, which started with severe stomach and back pain and later chloracne on his face.

And if the Kamera really was behind Mr. Yushchenko's illness, it did its work with fine skill. Some 20 doctors and specialists, from dermatologists to neurologists, were not able to make a precise diagnosis in his case. "It is an atypical case," said Dr. Korpan, "One seldom observes complex acute disease combined with neurological signs."

How to track poison victims when no poison is detected?

The Kamera also provided ricin in tiny, specially-toled pellets to be injected undetected, with hardly the pain of an insect's sting, causing death with absolutely zero trace. Lent to the Bulgarians, this poison pellet ricin killed the anti-Communist emigré radio journalist Georgi Markov , who worked for the BBC and Radio Free Europe. He ultimately died four days after a microengineered pellet carrying the ricin was injected into his leg with an umbrella. Investigators conjectured that the pellet was fired by an assassin who used a device hidden inside the tip of an umbrella while Markov was catching a bus on London's Waterloo Bridge in 1978 in London.

The cause of death and the means of its delivery were discovered only long afterward, and only by chance. Oleg Kalugin, former KGB general who was in charge of this operation from the USSR side, described it in his book "Spy Master," (1994). The manner of the poisons themselves sometimes resoluted the delivery system: the ricin pellet in a sharp-tipped umbrella or the spray vented from a tube hidden in a rolled newspaper or a poison-carrying bullet (designed for Russian emigré Georgy Okolovich in 1955) which was shot from a very short range pistol shrouded in a cigarette packet.

Who is the next target?

August 2020: Alexei Navalny, the most prominent opposition leader in Russia popular for staging anti-government performance art, showed mysterious symptoms and fell severely ill on a domestic flight, and was flown to Germany for treatment. On September 2, 2020, the German government disclosed that blood tests showed the presence of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. The findings of the German laboratories were then confirmed by the laboratories of France and Sweden.

March 2018: Former Russian military intelligence officer and double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found in a park in Salisbury in a state of unconsciousness. After the investigation, it was found that both of them were poisoned with Novichok and affirmed that the bushwack was accomplished out by Russian military intelligence agents, Aleksandr Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, later identified that they were traveling under the names Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Sergei was convicted in 2006 by the Russian court for "high treason in the form of espionage" on charges that he had leaked the names of Russian intelligence agents in Europe to Britain's MI6 security and intelligence agents during the 90s.

November 2006: Alexander Litvinenko, former Russia's security service officer fled to London with his family during the 00s and was granted political asylum. He, who solved his own murder, was poisoned in a London sushi bar in November 2006 and the autopsy exposed the traces of polonium-210 in his body. Experts claimed that he might be the first person ever to die of the acute radiation effects of polonium-210. Later, it was discovered that an ex-Kremlin bodyguard and a former KGB agent, Andrei Lugovoi, carried out this assassination along with Dmitry Kovtun by situating polonium-210 in that teapot which was being served to Litvinenko.

September 2004: An investigative journalist, Kremlin critic, and human rights activist, Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya fell violently ill after drinking tea on a flight from Moscow to southern Russia during the Beslan school-hostage crisis. Anna believed she was poisoned by the FSB, and media reported that her attackers used an unknown toxin prepared at a former Soviet secret-police poison facility. Politkovskaya survived, but was shot dead two years later in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. Although, five men were sentenced for her killing but no one was convicted for ordering it.

It may take forever to solve these mysteries, but what appears through the glass is that whoever (critics and enemies) fuels against the Kremlin regime, the Russian security forces shut them down secretly and effectively. Many have lost their lives and most of them have been possible victims of Moscow’s secret poisons laboratory, proven or not, these puzzling deaths hang like a cloud over Putin's/Russian Government’s head.

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