What was the diagnosis at that point?
“They eliminated thallium on the Monday or the Tuesday. I came to see Sasha, and asked: ‘Have you taken the antidote?’ He said he had taken the first portion, but for some reason the second portion hadn’t been brought. He had to take twenty-four capsules a day, eight capsules at a time. I was so surprised, because when they first brought him that powder, he said: ‘I can’t take any more of this, I’m going to leave it’ - a nurse came running and started trying to persuade him: ‘Now then, your life is at stake, you must take them all, every single capsule.’ But now no one brought anything. The doctors arrived, they said: ‘We’ve cancelled the antidote, it’s the wrong treatment.’ We said: ‘How can it be wrong? There was thallium in the blood sample.’ They replied: ‘It’s wrong.’ I said: 'But what is it, then?’ They replied: ‘It doesn’t really matter now what it is. At this stage it’s important to make sure that all his organs are working. The lung ventilation machine, the liver machine, the kidney machine - whatever happens to him, he’s completely connected up, and whatever happens to him, we’ll check it.’ And as for us, whatever happened, we were absolutely sure about Sasha’s heart, because almost literally the day before leaving for England he had had a medical examination, and he’d been told that his heart was in very good condition. So we were confident that at least his heart would hold out. And then at night for the first time it stopped. On the Thursday Sasha was already unconscious, hooked up to the machine, and then, when I left in the evening - I’d been there all day, and his father stayed on for the night - I asked: ‘Does his condition change from night to day?’ And the nurse said: ‘No, he’s connected up to the machine now, we’ve given him a paralysing drug so the machine will do the work for him, and there’s no way that he can do himself any harm.’ The doctor said there was only one thing they were worried about - if his blood pressure suddenly started to fall, there was nothing they could do, because when they restarted his heart, they’d given him the maximum dose of the drug. But the fact that no change, no deterioration was expected - that calmed me down somewhat. I went home, and once again told myself off for the thought that I might lose him, and then reflected - perhaps this was the crisis which had to occur, after which things would start to improve? I didn’t stay at home very long, about 20 minutes. They rang us from the hospital, and said: ‘Come urgently.’ There was another moment of hope - perhaps it was like last night, when his heart had stopped, and they’d started it again. I asked Tolya: ‘Will you come?’ He said: ‘Yes, I will.’ Before that he had only seen Sasha on the Monday, I tried to take him to the hospital as little as possible, and he hadn’t seen his father hooked up to the machine, unconscious. When we got to the hospital, they met us immediately, but they didn’t take as to Sasha’s ward as they usually did - but took us aside into another one. I immediately understood that it was all over.
“It was so hard. They let us say goodbye to him, without gloves, without the dressing gown, without the mask, because they still didn’t know what he had died of. No one knew anything - the results from the laboratory where it turned out that he had been poisoned with polonium-210 only arrived three hours before his death, and the hospital hadn’t yet received them. They left us with Sasha, I was able to touch him, hug him, kiss him. Perhaps it was a good thing. If they’d known the diagnosis in advance, I might not have been able to say goodbye to him. I, his father, Tolya, and Akhmed Zakayev were the last people to see him. After that, they didn’t show him to anyone.”
Did Zakayev and Berezovsky also think it was food poisoning?
“No, but they didn’t think it was that serious. Almost everyone was certain that it the doctors had it under control. But in fact there was nothing they could have done, so I have no complaints to make about anyone. Apart from the killers - for they didn’t just kill him: it was done with such refined cruelty, they made him suffer such agony - that it could only have been thought up by a perverted sadist.
“When it became known what it was, it was a shock. Because it had been the number one item of news in Britain, and it was so dreadful to see it in all the media every day. The death of a person is always a terrible thing, but you stay with your grief one to one, with friends, relatives. But here it was all brought out for public discussion. There were these constant interviews, these journalists, the first week and a half was awful. The night Sasha died, inspectors from the anti-terrorist centre phoned us, they said they were coming. I was very astonished, told them I was not in a state to talk - it was one in the morning, the night after his death on November 24. They said: ‘You will understand why we want to do this right now.’ When they arrived and told me that it was polonium, I didn’t really understand what they were saying. Even they hadn’t known it until right at the end. I took a degree at the petrochemical institute, and the name was familiar to me - but what effect it could have on the human organism, I didn’t know… They explained to me later what alpha radiation is. But when they arrived, they said that it was polonium, that they had no practical experience of poisoning with that element, and that now even the police didn’t know what to expect. The only thing they could suggest to us was to go away for the weekend, to take a change of clothes with us and wait it out. Then they said they were going to conducts tests on the house, and on us… They brought out some of our things - of course, they were subjected to thorough testing. Later, when I asked the hospital for some of Sasha’s things they said they couldn’t bring anything out of there at all.”
(to be continued)
See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
Conversation - V
Conversation - VI
Conversation - VII
Conversation - VIII
Conversation - IX
Conversation - X
Conversation - XI