Germany probes possible poisoning of Russian dissidents

27th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

German prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation into whether two Russian dissidents living in Berlin were poisoned, a spokesman told AFP on Monday.

"An investigation has been opened. It is being carried out by a department dealing with politically motivated crimes," a spokesman for the public prosecutors' office in the German capital said.

The German weekly Focus reported earlier this month that doctors had detected in Viktor Kalashnikov, a former colonel in the Soviet KGB, and in his historian wife Marina Kalashnikov dangerously high levels of mercury.

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, the magazine said.

"Moscow poisoned us," the husband told Focus.

The couple have worked as freelance journalists since the late 1990s, publishing articles that have angered the Kremlin. They arrived in Berlin in September.

Focus earlier this month reported that doctors at Berlin's Charite hospital found 53.7 microgrammes of mercury per litre in the 58-year-old dissident's blood and 56 microgrammes in his wife's body.

"The maximum safe level is between one and three microgrammes of mercury in a litre of blood," the magazine then quoted Frank Mertens, a toxicologist at Charite, as saying.

In 2006, dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was murdered by radio-active poisoning in London, prompting an icy period in Moscow's diplomatic relations with Britain.

© 2010 AFP

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