Litvinenko was poisoned earlier, friend says

14th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

14 December 2006, Moscow/Hamburg (dpa) - Russian businessman Andrei Lugovoi, an acquaintance of Alexander Litvinenko, said in an interview published Wednesday that the former Russian spy was poisoned weeks earlier than British investigators think he ingested radioactive polonium-210. Litvinenko, 43, had been poisoned in mid-October, not, as London's Scotland Yard has posited, at a November 1 meeting with Lugovoi and a second Russian businessman in London. The two businessmen say they were also poisoned wit

14 December 2006

Moscow/Hamburg (dpa) - Russian businessman Andrei Lugovoi, an acquaintance of Alexander Litvinenko, said in an interview published Wednesday that the former Russian spy was poisoned weeks earlier than British investigators think he ingested radioactive polonium-210.

Litvinenko, 43, had been poisoned in mid-October, not, as London's Scotland Yard has posited, at a November 1 meeting with Lugovoi and a second Russian businessman in London. The two businessmen say they were also poisoned with the radioactive metal.

"Who told you the infection happened November 1? It occurred much earlier - October 16," Lugovoi was quoted as saying in the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Lugovoi said he arrived at his conclusion after polonium was found at the offices of a London security firm.

"We visited that firm only one time - October 16. That means we were poisoned during that trip (to London, on October 14-16)," he added.

Litvinenko died on November 23 in a case that has seen five countries open criminal cases as traces of radiation appear in places as diverse as London, Hamburg in Germany, and aboard British Airways jets.

The former intelligence agent and Kremlin critic blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning from his deathbed. Moscow has stringently denied the accusations. None of the authorities investigating the case has named any possible suspects.

Lugovoi, like Litivinenko a former KGB agent, and at least one other acquaintance met with Litvinenko at the infamous November 1 meeting in the Pine Bar of London's Millennium Hotel, hours before Litvinenko fell violently ill.

That acquaintance, Dmitry Kovtun, and Lugovoi are said to have traces of the metal in their systems as well.

Kovtun told German Spiegel TV, a video news offshoot of Spiegel magazine, on Tuesday that he believed the poisoning had occurred during his and Lugovoi's October visit to the British capital.

Both men are undergoing medical examinations for radiation poisoning in a Moscow hospital, the name of which has been kept secret.

In Hamburg, police voiced skepticism at the claims.

They said they wanted to see proof that it had really been Dmitry Kovtun who gave the interview to Spiegel TV.

"The truth of these statements is difficult to assess," said spokesman Andreas Schoepflin. "But we will investigate what he has said and include them in our collection of evidence."

Police in Hamburg have found traces of polonium in the homes of both Kovtun's ex-wife and of her mother, where he stayed after arriving from Moscow on October 28.

Police said urine tests showed Kovtun's ex-wife, Marina W, and her new partner had not absorbed any polonium-210 into their bodies during Kovtun's stay in the city.

The previous day, doctors said they had found very slight traces of polonium during skin checks, but this posed no health danger.

Police are establishing Kovtun's movements through the city from October 28 to November 1 by tracking smudges of radioactive polonium.

German authorities have opened a case against the Russian for improper use of radioactive materials, but they say they are unsure whether to consider Kovtun a possible perpetrator or victim.

Although media reports said Kovtun had fallen into a coma and was in serious condition last week, Lugovoi told Moskovsky Komsomolets that his acquaintance felt fine.

DPA

Subject: German news

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