How does “rogue elements with access to Russian nuclear laboratories” grab you?

British intelligence sources increasingly suspect that Alexander Litvinenko, the former spy killed with a radioactive poison, was the victim of a plot involving “rogue elements” within the Russian state, the Guardian has learned.

While ruling out any official involvement by Vladimir Putin’s government, investigators believe that only those with access to state nuclear laboratories could have mounted such a sophisticated plot.

Police were last night closing in on a group of men who entered the UK among a large crowd of Muscovite football fans. The group of five or more arrived shortly before Mr Litvinenko fell ill and attended the CSK Moscow match against Arsenal at the Emirates stadium on November 1. They flew back shortly afterwards.

So when and where did these roguish rogues get to him? Believe it or not, a week after Litvinenko’s death and fully a month after he fell ill, the British papers still can’t agree on the basic sequence of events on November 1st. According to the Guardian:

It was reported that the levels of radiation were highest in the toilets of the Millennium Hotel in London, where Mr Litvinenko had a meeting shortly before falling ill. These levels were above the safe public dose limit, according to Channel 4 News. There were also traces at the Itsu sushi bar, where he went later, but they were far lower.

So they zapped him in the hotel and sent him on his merry way to the sushi bar, eh? Nope, says the Independent:

After retracing the route taken by Mr Litvinenko on the day he fell ill, anti-terrorist officers believe the ex-KGB agent was poisoned in or very close to the sushi bar in central London that he visited to meet an Italian contact on 1 November.

Detailed forensic analysis, including radiation testing, of the places Mr Litvinenko visited in the hours before he went to Itsu in Piccadilly have found no trace of radioactivity. This strongly suggests he was poisoned while in the restaurant, where traces of nuclear material were found…

Three Russian businessmen, employees of a security company in Moscow, who met Mr Litvinenko at a hotel after he had been to the sushi bar had yesterday gone to ground.

It’s understandable that they’d have a hard time nailing down the timeline. What’s not understandable is that they’ve been contradicting each other about it for at least five days now and yet neither the Guardian nor the Independent mentions any uncertainty here — despite the fact that their theory about where the poisoning happened, and thus who’s like to have done it, depends entirely on its own version of the timeline being correct. Bizarre.

I’ll leave you with some good news. Yes, it’s true that polonium is available for sale over the Internet at $69 per sample. But there’s a catch.