Markov, the Bulgarian dissident poisoned with the ricin

(To Giuseppe Barcellona)

The history of the dissident who dared to challenge the Bulgarian communist party has not yet been fully written; in the 2008 the story ended in the script of Breaking Bad., the famous American television series in which the Albuquerque chemist Walter White explains to his student Jesse Pinkman a system to produce a powerful poison to kill the drug trafficker Tuco Salamanca.

But who was Georgi Markov?

He was an author of plays and novels, accepted by the Balkan establishment, he could afford a certain freedom of criticism regarding the inefficiencies of the country and he was well accepted in the privileged and exclusive environments frequented by the bullies of the Bulgarian communist party; on Mount Vitosha, the usual gathering of the elite there was an abundance of game, food and beverages of western origin and other unknown things in the windows and shops of Sofia.

Markov observed everything and memorized, but never exceeded in his criticisms the maximum limit beyond which the rope would have broken; in 1968 Czechoslovakia rebelled against Soviet hegemony and from Moscow came a peremptory order to all satellite countries: the mistake of undervaluation by the Prague secret services had not to be committed, every slightest hint of criticism had to be stifled.

Zhivkov, leader of the BKP, the Bulgarian Communist Party, immediately took notice and ordered Markov not to present himself on Vitosha and forbidding him to publish texts of the same tenor as the previous ones.

Markov did not accept fleeing to the West, he was aware of the secrets of the caste, he was a close friend of Prime Minister Zhivkov, the party leaders were furious.

After a brief stay in Italy with his brother Nikola, he emigrated to London where he became a collaborator of the British Broadcasting Corporation, in the Bulgarian section of the Foreign Service which dealt with anti-communist propaganda; here he met and married Annabel, daughter of Christopher Dilke of the BBC from whom he had a daughter: Sasha.

Embittered by the sad exile that prevented him from seeing his dying father, Markov began to reveal particular secrets of the Bulgarian establishment of his knowledge, and anecdotes about the political subjugation of Bulgaria towards Russia.

Radio Free Europe was heard regularly throughout Bulgaria, it is estimated that the chemical engineer who became a writer had an audience of 5 million, about 60% of the total population, to which, the Dajnavna Sigurnost (Bulgarian services), tried to sabotage the transmission by committing the error of leaving a secret frequency open which was discovered by the population who secretly continued to follow the anti-regime propaganda.

This radio was financed since the 1971 by the CIA and this made Mosca go on a rampage, on the other hand, after a muted start, Markov's complaints became increasingly heavy, in one of these broadcasts he accused the party leader Zhivkov : "He is the principal orchestrator of interference with the intellectual world, no nomination, no dismissal, no punishment, no recognition can be taken into consideration without the support of the first secretary".

At this point Markov became the public enemy number one of the Bulgarian secret services and the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoj Bezopasnosti, Committee for State Security, nrd), was warned in various ways that his life was in danger; Georgi began to be afraid but he never stopped writing for all the magazines that in the meantime stood in line to have his reports.

He began to behave prudently knowing that they would hardly have murdered him in cold blood, he ate and drank cautiously sensing that they would try to kill him with poison.

On Thursday 7 September 1978 parked its green and creamy Simca on the south bank of the Thames, around the 18.30 it crossed the Waterloo Bridge going to the car, the radio had announced rain but the weather had not deteriorated, there was a lot of people around with raincoat and umbrella.

Overcoming the queue of passengers waiting for the bus at the National Theater he felt a collision on his right thigh, immediately felt a pang of pain, a man behind him picked up the umbrella that had fallen and apologized in a strange English, he called a taxi and it evaporated.

Back in the office he told his colleague Teo Lirkoff what happened, he lowered his pants and noticed a kind of insect bite at the point of impact, but in the absence of pain the episode was forgotten.

That night at two o'clock his wife heard him fidgeting in his bed, he had 39 fever, the doctor, contacted by telephone, told him not to worry since there were many cases of flu; at this point Markov confessed to his wife the suspicion that his meeting with the man in the parking lot was not accidental, a sinister premonition was ending in the head of the Bulgarian dissident.

He worsened so rapidly that he had to be admitted to St. James Hospital, where he was able to tell the doctors what had happened between deliriums and high fever; X-rayed of the red sign the presence of a tiny metal mass was detected, four days later Markov died.

From its thigh was extracted a small sphere of the 1,52 mm diameter formed by the 90% of platinum and from the 10% of iridium with traces of rhodium and palladium, the presence of wax was found at the height of two tiny holes at the ends of the sphere.

The secret chemical defense laboratory of the British government at Porton Down in Wiltshire ascertained the nature of the poison that had murdered Markov, it was ricin, a protein extracted from the castor plant that was considered one of the most lethal substances in the world along with botulinum , to diphtheria bacilli, those of tetanus and gramicidin; the suspicion arose that anaerobic gangrene bacteria were mixed with ricin.

At that time, according to British intelligence, two countries carried out research on this substance, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, both satellite countries of the Soviet Union, Russia was the main producer of the metals that made up the sphere, an authentic signature on the assassination .

Ironically the last piece of theater written by Markov for his country was called The assassin, with regard to the identification of the perpetrator the subsequent investigations slammed against a rubber wall until in the 2005 the Times signed by the journalist Hristo Hristov, revealed the name of the alleged author by identifying him with the Italian Francesco Gullino today 71 enne, code name "Piccadilly", framed by the Bulgarian secret services when, arrested for the umpteenth time in the Balkans, he was hired as secret agent for the West obtaining freedom in exchange for his collaboration.

Russian defectors Oleg Kalugin and Oleg Gordievsky have confirmed that the paternity of the assassination is attributable to the KGB, the Markov case was the first of a long series of poisoning crimes and all the tracks lead to the east, from Brezhnev's time to the "Court" of Putin.

But these are other stories ... 

(photo: web)