Exclusive: Murdered spy Alexander Litvinenko gave MI6 secret briefings about key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Secret services allegedly asked the late spy to provide 'expert analysis' on a confidential Foreign Office report that detailed a visit to London by the second most powerful figure in the Kremlin

Investigations Reporter

British security services handed Alexander Litvinenko a confidential government document that summarised private meetings held with a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Independent has learnt.

MI6 allegedly asked the late spy to provide “expert analysis” on a four-page confidential Foreign Office report that detailed a visit to London in 2000 by Sergei Ivanov – who is now the second most powerful figure in the Kremlin.

The diplomatic telegraph – known as a “DipTel” and circulated to British embassies around the world – outlined private talks between Mr Ivanov – at the time Russia’s top security adviser – and UK intelligence officials in Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Litvinenko’s relationship with British intelligence has been cited as a possible motive for his murder, and the documents provide fresh evidence of potentially close links between MI6 and the former KGB agent and arch-critic of President Putin. Mr Litvinenko fled Russia for Britain in November 2000 and died in 2006.

At the time of Mr Ivanov’s trip, between 30 October and 1 November 2000, London and Moscow were as close as they had been for decades. The visit was described as the “first meeting between such senior security officials from Britain and Russia”.

However, Britain’s decision to harbour Russian dissidents such as Mr Litvinenko angered President Putin, and relations deteriorated dramatically when the spy was poisoned soon after meeting two fellow former KGB agents at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair. The two spies, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, both deny involvement in his death and Russia has angered Whitehall by refusing to extradite them for questioning in the UK.

Sir Robert Owen, the coroner investigating Mr Litvinenko’s death, was due to publish some secret government documents which may have shed further light on the spy’s links to MI6 and Russia’s alleged role in his death. But he was overruled in the High Court on Wednesday after Foreign Secretary William Hague successfully won a judicial review of Sir Robert’s decision. Mr Justice Goldring concluded that publishing the documents could cause a “risk of significant damage to national security” and outweighed the need for a “full and proper” inquest.

The coroner is due to respond to the ruling later today. But the official restrictions on certain information relating to Mr Litvinenko have not prevented the late spy’s friend Yuri Felshtinsky revealing making more embarrassing claims.

In an updated version of Blowing Up Russia, which the Russian academic co-wrote with Mr Litvinenko in 2002, Mr Felstinsky wrote: “Among the many documents Alexander gave me in London in the beginning of 2003 was one that shows how close he had become to MI6. It relates to the visit of KGB-FSB general Sergei Ivanov to London.

“This four-page confidential document about the highly-sensitive visit ... was given to Alexander by MI6 for expert analysis.”

The Independent has seen the “Diptel” in question. The Foreign Office memo outlines UK officials’ thoughts of Mr Ivanov and an analysis of his positions on a range of topics, including global terrorism, Iran, China, and Nato.

Diplomats said the 60-year-old was “peddling the usual Russian arguments” on a range of subjects on which Moscow disagreed with London. The memo says Mr Ivanov “gave no ground on Iraq” and there was “no sign of a new approach to Chechnya”.

“(He) reiterated Russia’s negative view of Nato and saw little prospect of rapid improvement,” it reads. “Although he loosened up over dinner, claiming that Russia was not trying to split Nato and implying that part of the problem was the difficulty of bringing the military along”.

The Foreign Office noted “not much give on Iran” from Mr Ivanov, who “defended present Russian engagement and their involvement in nuclear co-operation” with the Islamic republic which was causing consternation in Western circles at the time.

During one dinner, a Russian official called “Chernov” is said to have launched a “diatribe” about the threat to “world security” posed by the internet. “He depicted the internet as the major global threat over the next 5-10 years,” the memo says. Mr Ivanov later described Russian media legislation as “one of the most liberal in the world”.

The memo reveals British officials said Mr Ivanov “came over well – serious and authoritative, but tinged with humour”, although the visit was marked by a “rigidity in the more formal meetings” and his juniors “were not encouraged to speculate”.

Speaking from his home in the US, Mr Felshtinsky, a Russian historian, said: “I do not know what Alex did with this document but he told me it was given to him by MI6. I met Alex with his handler once in Piccadilly. He was a very tall gentleman.”

Referring to the current legal impasse over the inquest, Mr Felshtinsky said: “I do not understand why there is a conspiracy of silence. Everyone knows Alex worked for MI6.”

Last year, the inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death heard he was a “paid employee of MI6 with a dedicated handler whose pseudonym was Martin”. It was also alleged that the spy he was supplying Spanish intelligence with information on Russia mafia activity in Spain.

Blowing Up Russia alleges that the 1999 bombings in Moscow that were officially attributed to Chechen terrorists were actually committed by the Russian security services and used by Moscow to justify a war in Chechnya that helped bring Mr Putin to power.

In 2007, Mikhail Trepashkin, who conducted an independent review of the 1999 bombings, said his Russian intelligence sources had told him that “everyone who was involved in the publication of the book ‘Blowing up Russia’ will be killed”.

He also claimed three FSB agents made a trip to Boston to examine the possibility of assassinating Mr Felshtinsky. The Foreign Office declined to comment.

Sergei Ivanov: Hostile to the West, close to Putin

Sergei Ivanov is a veteran of Russia’s security establishment and an old friend of President Vladimir Putin.

The 60-year-old met Mr Putin in Leningrad, where the two became friends in the local branch of the KGB.

He worked in intelligence for 18 years, first in the KGB and then in Russia’s SVR foreign service, and was once  allegedly expelled from  Britain for spying activities.

Newspaper reports in Russia have claimed he also worked in Kenya with Vasily Kushchenko, the father of Anna Chapman, a Russian spy deported from the United States in 2010.

Mr Ivanov is often described as one of key “siloviki” – a group of conservative ex-spies that have prospered under Mr Putin and who are hostile to the West. However, some analysts believe he is more liberal and maintains a political balance between the hawks and doves inside the Kremlin.

Former President Boris Yeltsin appointed Mr Ivanov secretary of the Russian  Security Council – placing him in charge of national security – in November 1999. In March 2001, Mr Ivanov became Russia’s first “civilian” Defence Minister.

Under Mr Putin he served as deputy Prime Minister and was tipped to become the next Russian President in 2008 before losing out to the liberal candidate, Dmitri Medvedev. However,  Mr Ivanov became the latter’s chief-of-staff – and remained in his post when Mr Putin  regained the presidency  in 2012.

His oldest son, Alexander, struck and killed a 68-year-old woman while driving in 2005, though a criminal case against him was closed due to lack of evidence.

In December 2006, Mr Ivanov reportedly dismissed the importance of Mr Litvinenko’s death. He told foreign correspondents in Moscow: “For us, Litvinenko was nothing. We didn’t care what he said and what he wrote on his deathbed.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried