Series reviewIn the four-part English drama series Litvinenko, the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, 17 years ago in London, is thoroughly dissected. Putin’s name keeps popping up.
A picture of Alexander Litvinenko lying in a London hospital went viral around the world in 2006. The bald, emaciated ex-spy was instantly in world news. A few days after it was published, he died of polonium-210 poisoning, which was found in a cup of tea he drank in a London hotel.
In the days that remain to him, he played Litvinenko in David Tennant’s soap opera (BroadchurchAnd doctor who), spoke to two English detectives who recorded his statements. The fugitive spy, who had just obtained British citizenship with his family, several times in his testimonies pointed the accusing finger at Putin, who was probably deeply upset by his trip to the West, but also by the publication of a book, Blowing Up Russia, in which Litvinenko denounced the practices of the KGB.
The four-part series was produced with the full cooperation of his widow, Marina, who for many years played a key role in the drawn-out official investigation into her husband’s murder.
“What happened to him should never be forgotten,” said the widow after the premiere of the TV series in London. “As far as I am concerned, the fate of my husband and our family is typical of what thousands of families in Russia are going through now. My husband’s death should have been a warning to the rest of the world at the time to realize what Putin was capable of.”
Before the invasion of Ukraine, Litvinenko’s life and death had already been combined into a play, Very Expensive Poison, which premiered in 2019. Two years later there was an opera.
The series attempts to present Alexander Litvinenko as an ordinary family man who found his feet in England. He loved English football. His son Anatoly even has a poster of Dennis Bergkamp on the wall in his bedroom when he was playing for Arsenal. Despite his past with the KGB, Litvinenko, as the first episode shows, wasn’t completely holed up in London. He always rode the subway, lived in a terraced house, had no protection, and had many contacts with other Russians who had fled their homeland. Only when he decides to have a cup of tea in public with a mysterious connection does Litvinenko sign his death warrant.
In the beginning, the focus is on the two detectives who have to investigate a murder that has not yet been committed. When they first meet Litvinenko, who was not taken seriously even by his doctors at first, who the dead man is, answers: “I am.”
Within English police offices, the case is unique. “It is the first murder investigation in which no one dies,” the superintendent tells his men, realizing that it is only a matter of time before the desperate victim breathes his last.
Makers fill their rebuilding with obstacles that impede research on a national and international level. At that time, relations between England and Russia were less tense than now. At first glance, the content feels like an unexpected thriller, but knowing that everything is based on facts makes the series impressive.
The battle to prove that the KGB was behind Litvinenko’s murder was not settled until 2021 when the European Court of Human Rights declared there was enough evidence to convict Russia. Marina did not see a penny of the imposed compensation, about 150 thousand euros.
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