Litvinenko death fuels UK-Russia spy war

Frank Gardner
Friday November 23, 2007

One year after the agonising death from polonium poisoning of former KGB officer-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko, relations between Britain and Russia have gone from strained to rocky.

Litvinenko was a British citizen (his citizenship came through shortly before he was poisoned) and his death in a London hospital was investigated with some urgency by detectives from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command.

For them, this was not just a case of some Moscow spat spilling over onto the streets of London, it was the deliberate, planned murder of a Briton on British soil using a lethal radioactive substance that potentially endangered the health of many people.

In January 2007 the Metropolitan Police handed the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) a file that contained, among other things, the name of their chief suspect in the case: Andrei Lugovoi, another ex-KGB officer who had met Litvinenko for tea at the time he fell ill.

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Mr Lugovoi, who is now poised to enter Russian politics, denied then and continues to deny any involvement in the murder.

Yet police detectives who followed the forensic trail of polonium-210 around London and Europe say they can see no other explanation of how Mr Lugovoi and his effects could have been so heavily contaminated with polonium, while he himself escaped poisoning.

Polonium emits radioactive alpha particles which can be stopped by human skin or even a piece of paper, but which can be lethal if ingested.

Litvinenko is believed to have drunk a heavy dose disguised in a pot of tea.

Full article here.

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