Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 47

Mikhail Trepashkin, the dissident ex-Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and lawyer who tried to investigate his former employer’s links to the 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities, said in a letter that he warned Aleksandr Litvinenko four years ago that he and other Kremlin opponents were on an FSB hit list. In May 2004, Trepashkin was sentenced to four years in prison for revealing state secrets and for illegally carrying a pistol in his car.

According to MosNews, Trepashkin wrote in his letter, which was dated November 23, the day of Litvinenko’s death, that an FSB officer had met with him in August 2002 and offered him the chance to join a group targeting Boris Berezovsky, the self-exiled Russian tycoon living in London, and Litvinenko. Trepashkin said he refused to cooperate with the team, whose task was to “mop up” Berezovsky, Litvinenko and their accomplices. “Back in 2002, I warned Alexander Litvinenko that they had set up a special team to kill him,” Trepashkin wrote in the letter, adding that he hoped the death of Litvinenko, “who fell victim to unpunished revenge, could force those dealing with human rights issues to finally pay attention to these facts.” Litvinenko’s death, Trepashkin said in the letter, “Made me feel angry – angry at the fact that the weak and disorganized human rights movement in Russia could neither prevent political murders nor provide protection to people persecuted by the authorities for political motives.”

Trepashkin also claimed that following his arrest, authorities had put him in a cell contaminated with poisonous chemicals and threatened to kill him. “Litvinenko and I aren’t the last in this chain of persecuted victims,” he wrote. “Maybe Litvinenko’s death could make you believe in what he was saying.” In addition, Trepashkin wrote that he had earlier discussed the FSB’s use of poisons that could be applied to a car handle, a telephone receiver, an air conditioner or elsewhere to kill a victim without leaving a trace.

According to the Associated Press, Trepashkin’s letter was released on December 1 by rights activists in Yekaterinburg, the regional capital of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Trepashkin is serving his sentence in a prison settlement near Nizhny Tagil, which is also in Sverdlovsk Oblast. Following Litvinenko’s death, a group of Russian human rights activists set up a “Public Committee to Protect Mikhail Trepashkin,” warning that he was seriously ill, not receiving proper medical care and could become “the next victim in the series of violent acts” that have already claimed the lives of Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya.

The Telegraph reported on December 5 that Trepashkin’s lawyer said he was anxious to be interviewed by the British detectives because he had important information to convey. The British newspaper also quoted his lawyer, Yelena Liptser, as saying that Trepashkin suffered from asthma and was not receiving adequate treatment for it in prison. “His life is in danger and he may die any night of asthma,” she said. On December 6, however, the Times quoted Aleksandr Sidorov, a spokesman for the Russian prison service, as saying that the British detectives would not be able to interview Trepashkin. “Trepashkin is serving a sentence for treason, therefore we cannot allow him to contact foreign security services.” According to the Times, prison officials have moved swiftly to punish Trepashkin for “violating regulations,” and a district court was scheduled on December 6 to hear an application to transfer him to a tougher, more secure prison, despite his lawyer’s concerns about his deteriorating health.