Spy case leaves mark on Germany, others
13 December 2006, Moscow (dpa) - The case of the spy who died after ingesting radioactive polonium has left its mark on England, Germany and Russia so far. Interpol plans to help arrange intergovernmental efforts to investigate the crime, Timur Lakhonin, head of Russia's Interpol office, said. In Germany, doctors said four people admitted to hospital for tests were unharmed by polonium-210, six weeks after their contact with Russian businessman Dmitry Kovtun who is sick in Moscow with polonium poisoning. K
13 December 2006
Moscow (dpa) - The case of the spy who died after ingesting radioactive polonium has left its mark on England, Germany and Russia so far. Interpol plans to help arrange intergovernmental efforts to investigate the crime, Timur Lakhonin, head of Russia's Interpol office, said.
In Germany, doctors said four people admitted to hospital for tests were unharmed by polonium-210, six weeks after their contact with Russian businessman Dmitry Kovtun who is sick in Moscow with polonium poisoning.
Kovtun is one of the two Russians who met dissident Litvinenko in London three weeks before he died. Kovtun had earlier visited the German city of Hamburg, sleeping on a sofa in the home of his ex- wife, 31, their children, 3 and 1, and her new boyfriend.
The four were taken to hospital Monday in Hamburg. Bernhard Leisner, head of nuclear medicine at St Georg Hospital, said the amount of polonium on their skin was so minute that it posed no risk at all.
Tests of their urine, which would take at least two days, would show if similarly negligible amounts had entered their bodies.
German police say they are uncertain whether Kovtun was part of the plot or one of its victims. Police in Russia have opened an investigation into persons unknown for trying to murder Kovtun.
The businessman, who has resident status in Germany, stayed in Hamburg for five days before travelling to London. Police have uncovered his trail from traces of polonium he left on objects.
The German police believe Kovtun already had polonium-210 in his body when he arrived in Germany from Moscow on October 28. The substance is not harmful to the skin, but is lethal if it is ingested, breathed in or enters the body through a wound.
In Moscow, Lakhonin said, in remarks carried by the news agency Interfax, "The work (of Interpol) has already begun, insofar as a number of countries have some relation to the investigation."
The 186-nation organization facilitates international police cooperation, "even when diplomatic ties do not exist between particular countries," as its website mission statement says.
Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) agent, had received British citizenship after leaving Russia in 2000. He died November 23 after apparently being poisoned on November 1.
Traces of radiation have been found in at least a dozen places in London, on two British Airways jets and in an apartment in Hamburg.
Detectives from London's Scotland Yard are currently investigating the case in Moscow, and Russian authorities are said to be ready to send their own sleuths to London. A Scotland Yard liaison officer is also in Hamburg.
Russia opened its own criminal cases last week into both Litvinenko's murder and the attempted murder of Kovtun.
Russian businessmen Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi met with Litvinenko November 1. Russian officials, in the presence of the Scotland Yard detectives, have questioned them both in a Moscow hospital where they are under observation for radiation poisoning.
Litvinenko's friends have blamed Russia's intelligence services in the murder, while the Kremlin calls the accusations "absurd."
Russian officials have suggested the poisoning may have been an attempt to discredit Moscow and have thrown suspicion on prominent London-based dissidents Boris Berezovsky, a once-powerful oligarch, and Akhmed Zakayev, a spokesman for the rebel government in Russia's war-torn region of Chechnya.
Lakhonin, the Interpol chief, said Tuesday that Berezovsky and Zakayev, along with a number of other high-profile exiled businessmen were still being sought on various charges.
"It's a question of principle," Lakhonin said. "If we don't insist on the extradition of people (who committed a crime), what sense is there in any law-enforcement activity?"
Exasperated police in Hamburg said meanwhile they had still received no reply from Moscow to their requests for help on the case. They have asked for details of Kovtun's health and where he is at present.
Public prosecutors in Hamburg have followed this up with an official inter-judicial request for assistance.
Subject: German news