He didn’t regret swimming against the tide?
“No, never once. Every time I reproached him: “Well, why did you do that?” - he would reply: ‘In any case they would have made me do something so that I’d end up with blood on my hands. And if I didn’t come forward, they would take me to a line which, if I crossed it, would mean that I’d never be able to get out of that system.’
“They said he took part in the scandal when he got the feeling that he was being followed and that material was being gathered about his abuse of his powers.
“He was able to take part in the press conference so openly precisely because he was confident of his innocence, of the fact that he hadn’t done anything wrong. He considered that the corruption had to be stopped, there was hope for change. Although, when he took part in the conference, he had a meeting with Putin, at which he showed him materials about the corruption in the FSB - and from Putin’s reaction, he understood that nothing would be done. After that meeting all the phones started to be monitored, and he was placed under secret surveillance.”
But on March 25 1999 Litvinenko was arrested.
“I remember that day well, because Sasha had promised to take me and our son - Tolya was 4 at the time - to some exhibition, but the car wouldn’t start. We walked off, and Sasha told me later that he watched us go, and he felt so sad and hurt that it turned out like that… and that everything did. But in the evening, when I was at work, his colleagues came to see me, and I realized that something happened, because their faces were so strange, and I was somehow morally prepared for it. They said: ‘Marina, don’t get upset, Sasha’s been arrested - there’ll be an inquiry, and in a couple of days’ time he’ll be released again.’ I realized that it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, and that at least he was alive. He himself was always ready for unpleasant things to happen, so they wouldn’t take him unawares.
“He was put in Lefortovo [Prison], and all the applications for bail and written undertakings submitted by the lawyers had no effect, and no explanations were given as to why he presented such a danger. The matter he had been jailed for had actually happened two years before that, and the investigator told me quite openly that Sasha had been arrested now because ”he has to appear less on TV’. Landing in jail like that came as shock to Sasha himself, because he was confident that his hands were completely clean. Another prosecuting attorney told me: ‘We have nine charges against him: if one doesn’t stick, we’ll make a second, a third.’ Running a little ahead now, I will say that it was indeed so - nine months later he was acquitted of one charge, and they immediately made another…. And when we left, or more precisely fled, they had already managed to make a third charge, and there was a real possibility that Sasha might quite simply never get out.
“He was charged, among other things, with mocking detainees - something not uncommon in the practice of the special services.
“But it wasn’t even him. I never believed it. All those films were fakes, and when the trial was held - the statements of the witnesses were simply ludicrous. Right from the start, even when this story in Moscow began, I regretted that it had had such a bad effect on our family, but the thought of withdrawing, of leaving him, never entered my mind. Of course, when Sasha was in prison, my mother was very upset. She would say to me: ‘Marina, what is this, why are you so unhappy, you’ve only just started to live, everything you have is so good, you love one another, don’t you? And now, if you please, Sasha is in prison.’ And I replied: ‘Well, so what? He’ll get out prison. Just look at how many unhappy women have a husband who comes home at night but gives them nothing to hope for at all? I don’t consider myself unhappy. I have the person whom I chose, and we will get over this, and everything will be all right again.’”
(to be continued)
See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III