Alexander Litvinenko’s only book Blowing Up Russia has been put on a list of “extremist materials” in Russia and banned, according to its English language publisher Gibson Square Books.
The Russian fugitive officer of the FSB secret service died in November 2006 after meeting with two former agents and drinking tea laced with a lethal dose of radioactive polonium.
He was allegedly poisoned on the command of the Russian state after making direct allegations against President Vladimir Putin.
As the inquiry into his death draws to a close, publisher Gibson Square has said that Litvinenko’s only book – entitled Blowing Up Russia – which he wrote with his friend Yuri Felshtinsky – has been put on Russia’s List of Extremist Materials which means that any online access to the title for anyone in the Russian Federation has been restricted and those in possession of a digital copy with the penalised.
Gibson Square told The Bookseller the title was put on the banned list in January, but the publisher has only just found out about it.
“The Kremlin is clearly using its growing cyber power to create a digital moat around Russia, insulating itself from any information that it doesn’t want the Russian population to know,” a spokesperson said. “The beginning of the Litvinenko Inquest in February this year triggered a response from the Russian Ministry of Justice even before the inquest started. A Federal Court placed Blowing up Russia, Alexander Litvinenko’s only published book on the Federal List of Extremist Materials on 12 January 2015, removing any digital access and making dissemination a crime within the Federation. Yuri Felshtinsky, Litvinenko’s co-author discovered this recently when he was sent the censorship information by a Moscow colleague. It is clear that the Kremlin has resumed its Cold War policy of misinforming Russians with a vengeance.”
The book was originally self-published by the authors in 2002, Gibson Square said, because no one wanted to publish it. After Litvinenko's death, Yuri Felsthinsky got in touch with Gibson Square to publish the book. The company controls all media rights in the title, which was originally written in Russian. Translation rights have currently sold in 21 countries so far. Perhaps unsurprisingly Russian rights are still available, but the Ukrainian rights have been placed.
A new edition of the book went on sale in the UK in February and has sold 10,505 copies according to Nielsen BookScan.
The BBC has also reported that "a very well-placed source with a close understanding of the thinking inside British intelligence" said MI6 assessed that he was murdered because he crossed two "red lines", one of which involves the claims he made in the Blowing Up Russia, in which he blamed the Russian state for a terrorist attack in Moscow in September 1999 in which 300 people were killed. Chechen separatists were blamed for the bomb at the time. However, Litvinenko claims in the book that Russia's own security services carried out the attack to give Putin the cover to launch a new Chechen war, and to make the Russian people believe they needed a strong leader.
The inquiry into Litvinenko's death also revealed he used to meet with his MI6 handler 'Martin' at a café in Waterstones Piccadilly.