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Expressing the Sense of Congress Regarding Alexander Litvinenko

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


Expressing the Sense of Congress Regarding Alexander Litvinenko

Mr. BERMAN. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 154) expressing the sense of Congress that the fatal radiation poisoning of Russian dissident and writer Alexander Litvinenko raises significant concerns about the potential involvement of elements of the Russian Government in Mr. Litvinenko's death and about the security and proliferation of radioactive materials, as amended.

The Clerk read the title of the concurrent resolution.

The text of the concurrent resolution is as follows:

H. Con. Res. 154

Whereas Russian dissident and writer Alexander Litvinenko, a citizen and resident of Great Britain, suddenly fell ill on November 1, 2006, and died three weeks later in a London hospital;

Whereas British health officials concluded, following an autopsy, that Mr. Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning caused by ingestion of the radioactive element polonium-210, and British law enforcement officials have announced that they are treating Mr. Litvinenko's death as a murder;

Whereas polonium-210, according to the Health Physics Society, radiates alpha particles that cannot penetrate paper or human skin but, if ingested through eating, drinking, or breathing, are extremely toxic, with the ability to destroy cells, damage vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow, cause cancer, and result in human death;

Whereas according to the Health Physics Society, just one millionth of a gram of polonium-210 can be fatal, an amount invisible to the naked eye;

Whereas 97 percent of the world's legal production of polonium-210 occurs at the Avangard nuclear facility in Russia, and Russia is the world's leading exporter of polonium-210 for commercial purposes;

Whereas polonium-210 is presently neither produced in nor commercially exported to Great Britain;

Whereas polonium-210, being especially dangerous to public health and safety if improperly handled, may attract the attention of terrorists because it can be easily and safely concealed and transported and is not usually detectable by radiation detectors;

Whereas this instance of poisoning by use of polonium-210 could serve as a model for future use of the radioactive element to assassinate individuals, poison and kill large numbers of people, or spread general panic and hysteria amongst the public;

Whereas Mr. Litvinenko was a former agent and official in the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation during the period when present Russian President Vladimir Putin ran that agency;

Whereas in 1998 Mr. Litvinenko was fired from the Federal Security Service and subsequently arrested and briefly incarcerated without conviction for a criminal act after publicly accusing high-level officials of the Federal Security Service of crimes that included plotting assassination attempts;

Whereas Mr. Litvinenko fled Russia and successfully sought asylum in Great Britain, becoming a naturalized British citizen in October 2006;

Whereas Mr. Litvinenko, after arriving in Britain, repeatedly accused the Federal Security Service and many of its officers, including now-President Putin, of involvement in organized crime, assassinations, and other illegal activity;

Whereas on November 1, 2006, before falling ill, Mr. Litvinenko reportedly met with three citizens of Russia, including former Federal Security Service agent Andrei Lugovoi;

Whereas the manner in which the polonium-210 was obtained, transported, and used must be fully investigated and revealed in order to reveal any defects or inadequacies in the present safeguard regime for that substance administered by the Russian Government and in order to prevent the unlawful, criminal, or terrorist acquisition or use of polonium-210 in the future;

Whereas the danger posed by polonium-210, as displayed by the discovery, subsequent to Mr. Litvinenko's death, of numerous cases of its exposure to objects and persons who had contact with Mr. Litvinenko and his meal companions, demonstrates the threat that the proliferation and use of polonium-210 poses to the lives of innocents worldwide, as well as to international security;

Whereas on July 15, 2006, the United States and Russia jointly announced the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which ``will enhance cooperation ..... to combat the global threat of nuclear terrorism ..... [including] determined and systematic efforts to improve accounting, control, and physical protection of nuclear material and radioactive substances, as well as security of nuclear facilities; [and] detect and suppress illicit trafficking or other illicit activities involving such materials, especially measures to prevent their acquisition and use by terrorists'';

Whereas Mr. Lugovoi has won immunity from prosecution as a member of the Russian Duma in December 2007 elections allegedly influenced by government electoral manipulation, which provides credence to claims that he has enjoyed official support in obtaining that office and its associated immunity; and

Whereas the British investigation into Mr. Litvinenko's murder continues in an atmosphere of deteriorating relations between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation due, in part, to a lack of agreement on the further pursuit of that investigation: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--

(1) the fatal radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko raises significant concerns about the potential involvement of elements of the Russian Government in Mr. Litvinenko's death, and about the security and proliferation of radioactive materials;

(2) the use of such radioactive materials in such cases demonstrates a threat to the safety and security of the people of the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries; and

(3) the President of the United States and the Secretary of State should urge Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials of the Russian Government to cooperate fully with the British Government in its investigation into Mr. Litvinenko's death and to ensure the security of the production, storage, distribution, and export of polonium-210 as a material that may become dangerous to large numbers of people if utilized by terrorists.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from California (Mr. Berman) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) each of control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. BERMAN. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the resolution under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. BERMAN. Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support this resolution that notes the tragic poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, expresses concern about the potential involvement of elements of the Russian Government in his death, and highlights the need to ensure the security of radioactive materials.

And I'd like to thank my good friend and the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN of Florida, for introducing this important measure.

In late November 2006, Americans joined with many around the world in watching with horror as a youthful, energetic Russian dissident and British citizen dramatically changed appearances within days. Who can forget the piercing blue eyes of the bald and gaunt man staring intently at the camera from a London hospital bed?

After the completion of an autopsy, British health officials concluded that Alexander Litvinenko had died on November 23, 2006 of radiation poisoning caused by ingesting the radioactive element Polonium-210. British law enforcement officials classified his death as murder.

Alexander Litvinenko was an agent in the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation at the time when Vladimir Putin ran the agency. Mr. Litvinenko was fired from the service in 1998, then was arrested and briefly held without conviction after accusing senior Security Service officials of assassination plots.

Mr. Litvinenko successfully sought asylum in Britain, from where he continued to accuse the Security Service of involvement in illegal activities.

The night before falling ill, Mr. Litvinenko reportedly dined with three Russian citizens, including former Federal Security Service Agent Andrei Lugovoi.

On May 22, 2007, British authorities announced their intent to prosecute Mr. Lugovoi for the murder of Mr. Litvinenko. After Russia refused to extradite Mr. Lugovoi to Britain, a political dispute ensued between the two countries that resulted in the mutual expulsion of diplomats.

The murder of Alexander Litvinenko clearly raises disturbing questions about how elements of the Russian Government appear to deal with their enemies and perceived threats.

It also raises worrying questions about the security and proliferation of radioactive material. 97 percent of the world's legal production of Polonium-210 occurs at the Avangard nuclear facility in Russia, the country that is also the world's leading exporter of this substance for commercial purposes.

If the Russian government is not responsible for Litvinenko's death, as President Putin has stated, then it should be urgently investigating the security of the production, storage, distribution and export of Polonium-210 to prevent grave threats to international security.

The resolution calls on President Bush and Secretary Rice to urge President Putin and President-elect Medvedev to cooperate with British authorities in finding answers to ensure the safety and security of all our citizens.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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