Prominent Russians: Andrey Lugovoy
Andrey Lugovoy is the prime suspect in the British investigation into the murder of ex-KGB agent Aleksandr Litvinenko, who fell violently ill and died as a result of exposure to radioactive Polonium-210 in London in 2006. In Russia Lugovoy is regarded by many as a hero rather than a hired killer. He is currently a Duma deputy (Member of Parliament) with the Liberal Democratic Party.
Andrey Konstantinovich Lugovoy was born on 19 September 1966 in Lankaran, a city on the coast of the Caspian Sea in Soviet Azerbaijan. He comes from a long line of military men. He claims that every male in his family going back several generations served in the armed forces of the USSR or Russia. Both his grandfathers fought for the Soviet Union in World War Two, one in Japan and the other in Germany.
Lugovoy’s career path was already traced out for him then when he enrolled in an elite Moscow military academy after finishing school. Upon graduation he served as a platoon commander with the Kremlin guard regiment for five years.
In 1987 he joined the 9th Directorate of the Soviet KGB. The 9th Directorate was tasked with providing security for top politicians and bureaucrats inside the USSR. It was renamed the Federal Protective Service (FPS) in the early 1990s around the same time the KGB became the Federal Security Service (FSB).
In 1992 Lugovoy was transferred to President Boris Yeltsin’s security detail. He was a bodyguard to numerous high-ranking government officials and politicians, and frequently accompanied them on foreign trips. He visited the White House on three occasions as a bodyguard to visiting Russian officials.
The FSB agent resigned in 1996, intending to set up his own private security firm. He worked for the television company ORT, now Channel One, for several years as Head of Security. It was perhaps at ORT that Lugovoy first met Boris Berezovsky, who was then a shareholder in the company. Lugovoy later provided security services to Berezovsky and other businessmen who made billions in the privatization of state companies in the 1990s.
Lugovoy was arrested in 2001 and charged with attempting to organize the escape from Russia of Nikolay Glushkov. Glushkov, a former deputy director-general of Aeroflot, was at the time being held under arrest in a hospital, as he was suspected of embezzlement. The Prosecutor General was informed that Lugovoy was acting under the orders of Boris Berezovsky, who was eventually convicted of fraud in the ‘Aeroflot affair’ and fled to London.
Glushkov denies that he tried to escape from the hospital, and claims that the plan was dreamt up by the FSB and Lugovoy himself in order to extend Glushkov’s prison term. The court found Lugovoy guilty, and sentenced him to a year and two months in prison.
In 2006 Lugovoy acquired a stake in Eugene Boujele Wine, a soft drink and alcoholic beverages producer.
Lugovoy was at the center of a major diplomatic row between Britain and Russia following the suspected poisoning of former FSB agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in London.
Litvinenko accused his superiors of plotting to assassinate self-exiled businessman Boris Berezovsky. The agent fled to London when he was arrested by the Russian secret service on charges of “exceeding his authority at work.”
Litvinenko met with Lugovoy for tea in London’s Millennium Hotel on the day he fell ill. Traces of radioactive isotopes were subsequently found on Lugovoy and on the plane in which he returned to Moscow. Berezovsky, in a BBC interview, publicly accused Lugovoy of murder, claiming that Litvinenko had told him, "I think Lugovoy is involved in my poisoning," as he lay on his deathbed.
Britain requested the extradition of Lugovoy, charging him in absentia with the murder of his former FSB colleague. Moscow has refused the request. Russian officials have asserted that Lugovoy was framed by the British Secret Service, MI6.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia revealed in September 2007 that Lugovoy would be in second place in the party electoral list for the upcoming Duma (Parliament) elections.
He became a Duma deputy (Member of Parliament) on 2 December 2007. As a Duma member he has immunity from prosecution. Lugovoy has said of his invitation to join the LDPR: "I was a drowning man to whom a helping hand was extended."
Lugovoy is a member of the Duma Security Council. He announced his intention to run for Mayor of Sochi in the 2009 elections but dropped out of the race early, citing a preference to remain a Duma member.
Written by Aaron Mulvihill, RT