Germany drops probe into 'poisoning' of Russian couple

4th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

German prosecutors said Tuesday they have dropped a preliminary investigation into claims by a Russian couple in Berlin, one of them reportedly formerly in the KGB, that they had been poisoned.

"There is no evidence that they were poisoned, at least in Germany," a spokesman for the public prosecutors' office in the German capital told AFP.

German weekly Focus reported last month that doctors had detected in Viktor Kalashnikov, who told the magazine he was a colonel in the Soviet KGB, and in his historian wife Marina Kalashnikova dangerously high levels of mercury.

The magazine said that the pair had written articles highly critical of the Kremlin, particularly over Russia's actions in Chechnya and the power held by former members of the KGB, not least Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Prosecutors said in late December they had launched a preliminary enquiry.

Both have suffered health problems, with Marina losing half of her hair and Viktor considerable weight, and medical experts have recommended that the couple undergo further tests and be watched closely, Focus had said.

"Moscow poisoned us," the husband told the magazine.

In 2006, dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died from radioactive poisoning in a London hospital, prompting an icy period in Moscow's diplomatic relations with Britain.

London demanded Moscow extradite the chief suspect, lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi, but Russia has refused.

© 2011 AFP

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