Well, it’s Xmas and for news junkies, the Litvinenko affair is the gift that just keeps on giving, the latest being that whoever was handling the polonium 210 was so clumsy that they managed to have covered most of Europe with it.

On the day that Litvinenko was buried in a sealed coffin (amidst a huge family dispute as to whether or not he’d converted to Islam), came the suggestion by the FBI that whoever dun it may have contaminated themselves through sloppy handling.

Now British police in Moscow are talking to Russian minigarch (anyone worth less than $50m) Dimitry Kovtun, who is in Moscow radiation Hospital No.6, was at the fatal drinks party with Litvinenko, and who apparently left a trail of polonium 210 all over Northern Germany.

Russian lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin has named an FSB Colonel Gusak as the poisoner. Trepaskin has yet to speak to UK police as he’s in a Urals prison camp (can’t call it a gulag – Russia is now capitalist and therefore free).

Meanwhile Itsu, the sushi chain falsely named as the place where the poisoning occurred has had a gangbusters opening of their first outlet in New York, substantially on the back of the free publicity.

However one person who won’t be eating there is Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich, who is so terrified of similar treatment that he has hired his own food taster (something of an oxymoron in Britain one would think).

And bringing us soberly back to earth, it’s been revealed that seven of the staff working the bar at the time of the poisoning are contaminated, with a raised risk of cancer – from 30% normal baseline, to anywhere between 35-50% — across their lifetimes.

But amidst all this, it took Martin Amis to really lower the tone. Appearing on the BBC’s Question Time, the fearless 21st century campaigner against Stalinism drawled that there was an element of “Asiatic barbarism” about the whole affair. Thanks for sharing Marty.

Having descended from Sean Connery all the way to being a George Lazenby Bond film, I now think the film that best captures the whole affair is the Morecambe and Wise Sunday afternoon classic The Intelligence Men, in which a coffee shop owner saves the free world by dressing as an Egyptian pharaoh…

Peter Fray

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