Chekhist is a time-honored name for a KGB agent. Litvinenko was an operative of the FSB, the renamed KGB.
One day (in the fall of 1996), Sasha (Litvinenko) was invited to an operational meeting. His superiors were discussing a plan to kidnap … a prominent Chechen figure in Moscow, to force his family to pay a ransom, which would then be used to buy the freedom of some of their comrades held in Chechnya. Sasha was invited to the meeting because of his extensive experience with kidnappings.
“I was sitting there, discussing how to take a man hostage,” Sasha said. … The date, time, and place for the operation were set: they would take him when he arrived at a performance by Mahmud Esambaev, the famous Chechen folk dancer.
They even developed a disinformation line, which would be planted in the media in the aftermath of the operation. (The target) was a co owner of the Radisson hotel in Moscow, with an American partner, Paul Tatum, who had been gunned down by an assassin near the hotel on November 3, 1996. An “FSB source” planned to plant a story saying that investigators believed that (the target’s) kidnapping was linked to Tatum’s murder.
With every passing day of preparation, Sasha became more and more depressed. He knew that after that operation he would be bound to URPA (the FSB’s Division of Operations against Criminal Organizations) forever. He even asked his old bosses … whether they would take him back. But no one wanted to mess with (Col. Evgeny Khokholkov, the head of URPA).
And then, at the last logistical meeting before the hit, the SWAT team that was supposed to snatch the target flatly refused to participate unless they were paid in advance. They had carried out a prior kidnapping on spec, they said, and they were still waiting for their share of the proceeds. Not anymore. They wanted their cut beforehand.
The operation was postponed.
Excerpted from Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, by Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko.