The final report of Sir Robert Owen’s official inquiry into the death in London of Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB officer and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was released on January 21, 2016. The report is over 300 pages long and available to download at  In his closing statement, Sir Robert said, 

Alexander Litvinenko was born on 4 December 1962, a citizen of the Soviet Union. He died aged 44 on 23 November 2006 in University College Hospital London, by then a British citizen. 
Post-mortem examination revealed that his death had been caused by an ingestion of a fatal dose of the radioactive isotope polonium-210.
I have concluded that there is a strong probability that when Mr. Lugovoy poisoned Mr Litvinenko, he did so under the direction of the FSB, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
I have further concluded that Mr Kovtun was also acting under FSB direction … probably in the knowledge that that was the body for which he was acting.
I have further concluded that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also President Putin.
Vlad Georgescu
There are parallels and similarities in the Litvinenko murder in London with that of RFE/RL Romanian Broadcast Service Director Vlad Georgescu in Munich in 1988. Below we will look at the still unsolved death of Vlad Georgescu.

On November 30, 2001, at a ceremony honoring 50 years of RFE/RL broadcasts, Romanian President Ion Iliescu decorated RFE/RL President Thomas Dine and five veteran journalists of the Romanian Service with different orders. Iliescu said the ceremony represented "a sincere, though perhaps belated acknowledgment of the fact that Romania's history in the years of the totalitarian regime cannot be written without emphasizing the role played by the station on our lives under the conditions then prevailing." He added, that RFE/RL had been Romania's "window to the normal world outside," and a source of "adequate and pluralist information." 

President Iliescu also recalled the “darker side” of Romania and RFE/RL’s history:

  • the February 21, 1981 terrorist bomb attack on RFE/RL in Munich
  • physical attacks on other Romanian journalists working for RFE/RL
  • the still-unclarified circumstances surrounding the deaths of three directors of RFE/RL’s Romanian Service 
Iliescu said the authorities are fully collaborating with "competent international forums" to fully explain the circumstances of those incidents.

15 years later, there is still no explanation from Romania about the deaths of three directors of RFE/RL's Romanian Broadcast Department, including that of Vlad Georgescu.  

One Cold War question that remains to be conclusively answered is: Did Romania develop a secret radiation weapon that killed prominent members of RFE/RL's Romanian Broadcast Service?  

Vlad Georgescu was a prestigious historian and dissident, who had a long history of difficulties with the Romanian domestic intelligence service known as Securitate. Starting in 1974, Securitate harassed him for criticizing the Ceausescu regime. He was accused of treason in 1977 and was jailed for writing several anti-Ceausescu essays and passing them on to the US Embassy for publication abroad. Because of UR government interest in his case, Vlad was allowed to travel to Washington, where he asked for and received political asylum. Shortly afterwards, he became a contributor to RFE's broadcasts and two years later was appointed associate director of RFE's Romanian Service and then as Director based in Munich. Sometime along the way, Securitate gave him the code name “Bastard.” 

Nestor Ratesh, his eventual successor as Director of RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, has written: “The Securitate had no illusions about his directorship. Right from the beginning, it started to prepare the conditions for his complete neutralization. The phrase appears the first time in a four-page plan of action dated June 25, 1982. It meant liquidation.” Over the years, numerous informers were sent to Munich to investigate Vlad's living situation:

  • His physical and mental health, 
  • His relationships within and outside the radio, 
  • His family circumstances and marital relations, 
  • His daily routine, 
  • Where and how he was spending his free time and other such operational particulars.
  • Special attention was paid to his ground floor apartment, deemed to present security risks 
  • The exact position of each piece of furniture, principally Vlad's desk, was also of great interest, usually in conjunction with the windows and doors.
  • The informers would bring back detailed descriptions and sketches. 
  • Threatening telephone calls and letters, including menaces to his 8-years old son, came in frequently.

Ian Pacepa is a former General of Romanian IntelligenceExternal Service, DIE or CIE in English, who had defected to the United States. Pacepa claimed in his book Red Horizons that he had inside knowledge of activities of Romanian Intelligence Service against RFE/RL. These included bomb threats against RFE/RL, physical attacks and threats against Romanian Broadcast Department employees.
Vlad Georgescu aired his first review of the book on Saturday, November 14, 1987His sister-in-law, who lived in Romania, was due to visit Munich. She was called into the Romanian Intelligence Service ("Securitate") office on the Monday following the broadcast. The Securitate officer castigated Vlad for reviewing the book. He then told her that if Vlad allowed the book itself to be aired, he would be killed.
Vlad decided that the Romanian Service would begin reading from the book beginning with the week of January 5, 1988. 
On December 29, 1987, the New York Tribune newspaper published a long article entitled: "Book exposing PLO-Romanian intrigue and scandals said targeted by terrorists. The reporter said the FBI was investigating a possible terrorist plot designed to disrupt distribution of the Pacepa memoirs. He went on to write that there were at least three known death threats to those associated with the book, including RFE employees. “Agents of the PLO are principle suspects in the threats against the book publishers and Radio Free Europe,  government source says.”

The Romanian Service broadcast the first of four programs on January 4, 1988. Four more programs were broadcast that week, four programs were broadcast the following week, for a total of twelve programs. 
On January 25, 1988, Vlad Georgescu sent me the following note:

A previously unknown organization, called "Group In the Service of the Marshal" (Antonescu) in New York decided to sentence to death the ex-king Michael. The text and photographs were sent to him and to a member of the RFE/RL Romanian Research Section. More death sentences will follow, claims the leaflet, since "there are still many traitors running around. This was not the first time that similar threats were sent using the name of a rightist émigré organization. But, I had few doubts that the real address is in Bucharest."

The letter was postmarked in Paris. There were two color photographs of King Michael and his wife. There were identical, except that one had been painted to show a bullet hole in the King's head with blood dripping down over his face; the other had been painted over to show blood on the King's hand.  Michael had become King of Romania at age nineteen, after his father Carol II had abdicated during World War Two. In 1944, King Michael helped lead a coup against the pro—Nazi government. King Michael abdicated and fled Communist-ruled Romania in December 1947. While living in Switzerland, King Michael broadcast an annual Christmas message to Romania over Radio Free Europe.

Tuesday, January 26, 1988 was Nicolae Ceausescu's 70th birthday. He had been in power for twenty-three years. The Cult of Personality was in full force. Romania had only two hours of television per day. On this day, the two hours were devoted to adulation of the Ceausescus.  “Choirs of Factory workers and school children, in sunshine and bright costume, sang hymns of gratitude for his existence,” according to Charles T. Powers, a Los Angeles Times reporter. The Romanian state media published glowing notes of congratulations from foreign leaders, including Britain's Queen Elisabeth, King Baudoin of Belgium, King Juan Carlos of Spain, and King Carl of Sweden. The notes were frauds. Official protest followed the  fraudulent notes of congratulations.
In the summer of 1998, Vlad Georgescu was diagnosed as having a brain tumor. In July 1998, Vlad Georgescu went to the United States for an operation to remove it.  
On November 19, 1988, Vlad Georgescu died in Munich. The next day, RFE/RL President Gene Pell issued the following staff announcement:

It is with profound regret that I must report the death of Romanian Service Director Vlad Georgescu. Mr. Georgescu died last evening at Bogenhausen Hospital in Munich following a valiant fight against cancer. He was 51.

Vlad Georgescu was appointed Associate Director of the Romanian Service in 1982, and named Director the following year. He was a brilliant intellectual, a highly respected administrator, and a kind and gentle man.

He suffered much persecution, abuse, and imprisonment because of his unflinching belief in freedom and human rights, before he was finally allowed to leave Romania in 1979 after persistent protest and intervention by the United States Government and the Western academic community. He never ceased fighting for those principles or for his people and his country.

Romania has lost a stalwart patriot. RFE/RL has lost a dedicated servant of the cause of liberty. Most important, his wife Mary Luiza, and his son Tudor Vlad have lost a loving husband and father.

I know you will join me in sharing in their grief and in mourning the loss of a true friend and colleague.
In the middle of December 1988  , U.S. News and World Report magazine publiched an article on the death of Vlad Georgescu as “murder through radiation.”. 

In his book, “Red Horizon,” Pacepa wrote: “In the spring of 1970, Service K added radioactive substances provided by the KGB to its deadly arsenal. Ceausescu himself gave the procedure the code name “Radu,” … The radiation dosage was said to generate lethal forms of cancer.” (P. 148). 

An article by journalist Bill Gertz appeared in the Washington Times on December 27, 1988. He quoted Pacepa in an interview that he believed four Radio Free Europe officials were killed with a radiation device designed by Romania's Intelligence Service, DIE, with help from the Soviet KGB. He added that he warned U.S. Officials about the weapon during  debriefing sessions in the late 1970s. Gertz quoted Pacepa as saying, “I don't know anything for sure, because I was no longer in Romania when these events occurred. But I have no doubt this was not coincidental. I believe Ceausescu wanted these people killed with Radu.” 

According to Nestor Ratesh, “The intelligence file on Vlad Georgescu is huge, covering five volumes and over 1,600 pages. However, close to 300 pages are missing, including almost all that pertained to Vlad’s last year of life.” The truth concerning cause of the death of Vlad Georgescu will probably never be known. 

Photograph of Vlad Georgescu courtesy of RFE/RL

For those who understand Romanian, Vlad Georgesu's original November 14, 1987,editorial can be heard here:



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