Russia names Litvinenko chief suspect as 'victim' in probe

30th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday unexpectedly named Britain's chief suspect in the radioactive poisoning of former Russian agent turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko as a "victim" in its own probe.

In a surprise twist to the dispute between Moscow and London over the death of Litvinenko in London in 2006 due to polonium poisoning, Russia's Investigative Committee said Andrei Lugovoi and his associate were also poisoned with the substance.

"Andrei Lugovoi has been acknowledged a victim in the criminal case on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko," the Investigative Committee, which probes high-profile crimes, said in a statement.

It said it had opened an investigation on Tuesday into the attempted murder of Lugovoi by "unidentified persons" using the highly radioactive isotope Polonium-210 that killed Litvinenko.

It said it had confirmed "the fact that Andrei Lugovoi was poisoned with Polonium-210 while meeting Alexander Litvinenko in London in October and November 2006."

Investigators said they were now probing as a single case Litvinenko's murder, Lugovoi's attempted murder and the attempted murder of Lugovoi's friend Dmitry Kovtun, who was one of the last to see Litvinenko before he fell ill.

Lugovoi, a former FSB security agent who now represents the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in parliament, denies any involvement in Litvinenko's death from radioactive poisoning in London in 2006.

Litvinenko,43, died in hospital a few days after drinking tea laced with polonium at a London luxury hotel in November 2006. Lugovoi and Kovtun both met Litvinenko at the hotel.

Moscow's refusal to extradite Lugovoi after the murder has soured its relations with London, and the two sides are only slowly regaining each other's trust.

At a September meeting in Moscow, British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Dmitry Medvedev confirmed neither side was prepared to budge, but Cameron said the countries should work round the issue in the interests of warmer relations.

© 2011 AFP

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