||Last Updated: May 4th, 2007 - 10:48:12
Intelligence officials say that only officials such as FSB agents would have been able to obtain sufficent amounts of polonium-210, the radioactive substance used to fatally poison Litvinenko only weeks after he was given British citizenship, The Times writes. A senior police source told the London paper yesterday that the method used to kill the 43-year-old dissident was intended to send a message to his friends and allies. "The sheer organisation involved could only have been managed by professionals adept at operating internationally," The Times cites the source.
British ministers insist that diplomatic sensitivities will not be allowed to obstruct the scope of the Scotland Yard investigation. The main figure that the British counter-terror team want to question is Andrei Lugovoy, a former FSB agent, the paper notes. He made three visits to London in the fortnight before Litvinenko fell ill and met him four times at various restaurants and bars. The Times points out that Lugovoy was briefly imprisoned in Moscow after he left the FSB and after his release his business career thrived and his company is reported to be worth more than £100 million.
Two hotels in London in which he stayed had traces of polonium-210, as did a British Airways aircraft that Lugovoy travelled on. Intelligence officials believe that a sizeable team was sent from Moscow to smuggle radioactive polonium-210 into Britain and to shadow Litvinenko, the daily underlines. The Times adds that the judgment by British Intelligence has been strengthened by the knowledge that the FSB has legislative approval for eliminating terrorists and enemies of the state abroad, after the passing of a controversial anti-terrorism law in the summer.
FSB has no comment on accusations of killing ex-Russian security service officer
Russia's domestic security service said it would not comment on British media reports of its alleged involvement in the killing of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, news agency RIA Novosti reports.
"We do not see any sense in commenting on unofficial media reports with reference to unnamed sources in the British special services," the agency is quoting a spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying today. Earlier, a source in the British secret services told The Times that only FSB agents have access to sufficient amounts of polonium 210, allegedly used to kill the Russian defector. A security source also told The Times: "We know how the FSB operates abroad and, based on the circumstances behind the death of Mr Litvinenko, the FSB has to be the prime suspect."
Litvinenko's SVR poisoner named as Igor Vlasov
UK's newspaper News of the World claims that they know who poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, but only print his middle name - Igor "for legal reasons." In its turn, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera gave his name as Igor Vlasov from the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service or the SVR. The 46-year-old expert in covert operations belonged to Russia's Spetsnaz special-task forces, the paper notes and was fingered in a document Litvinenko received right before he was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210.
Litvinenko handed Scotland Yard the dossier he received at London's Itsu sushi bar, and it contains a long hitlist with his name on top, News of the World claims.
Key witness in Litvinenko case, ex-KGB officer, hides in hospital from Scotland Yard
Nine Scotland Yard inspectors arrived in Moscow yesterday to probe into the poisoning death of the former Russian security service officer Alexander Litvinenko. Daily Kommersant writes today that London detectives will hardly be able to interrogate the main witness - Andrei Lugovoy - who is in hospital now for a repeated radiation checkup. "According to our information, he is ill and currently in hospital. If doctors allow, than he will certainly be questioned," Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika is quoted by the Interfax as telling journalists today.
AIA reported yesterday that the Scotland Yard detectives want to interrogate businessmen Andrei Lugovoy, Dmitry Kovtun and Vyacheslav Sokolenko. All of them are former officers of Russia’s secret intelligence services, who met with Alexander Litvinenko in Millennium Mayfair Hotel on November 1. On that day, Litvinenko was poisoned by radioactive polonium-210, according to London police.
Most of the queries of Scotland Yard are aimed at Lugovoy, one of the main witnesses in the Litvinenko’s case and former chief of security service of the ORT TV Channel. The detectives are very much interested why the traces of radiation were found on board of planes taken by Lugovy to fly to London and back to Moscow and in the rooms of London hotels where he stayed, Kommersant notes. The paper doubts the Moscow meeting of London police with Andrei Lugovoy will take place. Lugovoy, his wife and three children are in the hospital now, Kommersant marks, referring to Lugovoy’s lawyer Andrey Romashov. They are said to be checked up for traces of poisoning by polonium-210. For the Lugovoys, this hospitalization is the repeated one. They signed out of the hospital three days ago and were “absolutely clean,” as Lugovoy said then.
British detectives have questions to several Russian ex-spies, hope to talk to them in Moscow
Alexander Litvinenko, a KGB-trained former Russian security service officer, died in University College Hospital, London on November 23 from a massive dose of polonium-210, a highly radioactive isotope of one of the planet's most deadly materials, The Daily Telegraph writes.
Andrei Lugovoy, who met Litvinenko on the day the latter fell ill, has told interviewers in Moscow that he too has tested positive for contamination by polonium, but argued that he was "exposed" to it by people trying to frame him. He did not say when this happened, the paper adds. That might explain the presence of polonium on British Airways planes, as Lugovoy says he had flown between London and Moscow three times between October 16 and November 3, The Daily Telegraph concludes.
Scotland Yard detectives investigating Litvinenko's alleged poisoning have arrived in Moscow. They are being urged to speak also to an imprisoned state security ex-officer, Mikhail Trepashkin, who claims to have key evidence that could help with the case, according to Sky News. Russian news agency Interfax reports Trepashkin, who is serving his prison term for divulging state secrets, is ready to testify to Scotland Yard officers in the case of Litvinenko. "He [Trepashkin] says that he possesses information that may shed light on the murder. And he is ready to speak out," Yelena Liptser, a lawyer for Trepashkin, is quoted by the news agency as saying at a press conference yesterday in Moscow. She emphasized that if the authorities didn't allow him to do that would mean they were trying to hide something. However, Trepashkin is in Nizhny Tagil, where he is serving his sentence. Trepashkin reportedly said in a letter from prison that he had warned Litvinenko several years ago about a government-sponsored death squad that intended to kill him and other Kremlin opponents. In letters released by his supporters, Trepashkin said an officer of the Federal Security Service, FSB, offered him a chance in 2002 to join a group targeting Litvinenko but he rejected it. Trepashkin quoted the officer as saying that "Litvinenko won't escape Trotsky's ice pick," referring to the 1940 murder of Leon Trotsky by a Soviet agent.
Detectives will want to know when, if at all, the two Russians, Lugovoy and his friend Dmitry Kovtun, who met Litvinenko in the Millennium Hotel on November 1, visited the sites that are known to be contaminated by polonium. But there is also the possibility, as Lugovoy said, that some unknown party had "smeared" him or his colleague with polonium on their hands or clothes, The Daily Telegraph marks.
It also remains an open question as to where anyone who used the substance to kill Litvinenko got it from, the paper underlines. To have been poisoned in the same way as Litvinenko, experts say, even health workers would have had to ingest his body waste, which seems unlikely.
CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports the productivity of the British investigators' trip will depend on who they are actually given access to. Terrorism expert Neil Livingstone said on CBS's The Early Show that it’s problematic to talk to a variety of people in Russia, outside the SFA, the security apparatus. He suggested to take a wait-and-see attitude to see if they are going to be able to meet with the people they want to meet with. Many have speculated that operatives from within the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, or perhaps rogue elements within the agency, are behind the death of their defected colleague.
Scotland Yard barred from interviewing jailed Russian ex-FSB officer
Scotland Yard detectives, currently in Russia as part of an investigation into the death of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London, will not be allowed to interview a jailed fellow security officer, a penal service spokesman said today, RIA Novosti reports. Defense lawyers for Mikhail Trepashkin, who was found guilty in 2004 of divulging state secrets and is now serving a four-year sentence, said yesterday he is prepared to give evidence in the high-profile case to the British security services.
Alexander Sidorov, Federal Penitentiary Service spokesman, explained the decision with the fact that Trepashkin was serving a sentence for treason. He said this was why he could not be allowed to contact foreign security services. However, Trepashkin's defense lawyer, Yelena Liptser, told journalists that she is disappointed with the decision, as it hinders the investigation, and plans to visit Nizhny Tagil in the Sverdlovsk Region, where Trepashkin is serving his term at penal colony No. 13. "Russian authorities have said they are willing to help the investigation into such a high-profile case," she said, according to RIA Novosti. "Barring Scotland Yard representatives from interviewing Trepashkin could be seen as an effort to hide the truth."
Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Moscow yesterday to interview several people who met with Litvinenko around the time of his alleged poisoning in early November, including businessman and former KGB and FSB colleague Andrei Lugovoy, and businessmen Dmitry Kovtun and Vyacheslav Sokolenko. The names of two other witnesses have not been disclosed.
Trepashkin earlier said in a letter that he warned Litvinenko, a former spy who died of radiation poisoning in a London hospital November 23, of a planned attempt on his life to avenge his defection in 2000.
Russian ex-officer death cops start hunt for clues in Moscow
British experts investigating the death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko will today carry out radiation tests at the UK Embassy in Moscow, Sky News reports. An embassy spokesman stressed the tests were simply a precaution and the experts "did not expect to find anything". He was speaking amid growing diplomatic tensions between the UK and Russia over the case, Sky News adds.
Russia's top prosecutors have met with Scotland Yard detectives in Moscow and agreed to cooperate in an investigation into an ex-FSB officer's death in London, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports today, referring to the Prosecutor General's Office.
A team of nine UK detectives who arrived in the Russian capital yesterday were hoping to start work today. Britain had officially approached Russian authorities requesting cooperation in the case. They want to interview several people who met with Litvinenko around the time of his alleged poisoning. British experts were not authorized to interview Mikhail Trepashkin, a jailed security officer who had sought a meeting with them, and who claims to have warned Litvinenko of a planned attempt on his life, to avenge his defection from the Russian security service. Russian authorities say Trepashkin was jailed for revealing state secrets.
Meanwhile Russian Vice-Premier and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that he considered speculations talking about Litvinenko possessing serious intelligence. In an interview to Greek newspaper Elefterotipiya, Ivanov said he did not see any grounds for the vigorous speculations in the western press about the “presence of a long hand of the KGB or the FSB, and that Litvinenko possessed much information as a prominent intelligence officer, that does not correspond to reality”.
Russian poison suspects 'cannot be extradited'
Possible Russian suspects in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko will have to be tried in Russia, not Britain, according to a senior Moscow official, The Daily Telegraph writes today.
Nine Scotland Yard detectives have flown out to Russia to investigate the ex-KGB agent's poisoning, but Yuri Chaika, the prosecutor general, said today that they would not be allowed to take any suspects back home with them. It emerged last night that the British Embassy in the Russian capital has been checked for radiation. Russian visitors to Britain need a visa and would have to visit the embassy to receive one but the checks come amid growing tension between the two countries, the paper notes.
It is far from clear how much co-operation the British police officers can expect from their Russian counterparts although Russia is part of Interpol. Scotland Yard officers have already flown to Washington to question Yuri Shvets, another former KGB officer and a friend of Litvinenko, who said he had given police the name of the man he believed was behind the alleged assassination. Meanwhile, lawyers for another former FSB security officer, Mikhail Trepashkin, who is now in prison in central Russia, appealed to the British police officers to interview him as soon as possible. The lawyers said he possessed key evidence in the case, but that his life was in danger, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Russia’s Ministry of Justice to lead own investigation of Litvinenko’s death
Vladimir Kolesnikov, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, considers that the Russian law enforcement bodies should lead their own investigation of death in London of the former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Alexander Litvinenko, Interfax reports.
According to Kolesnikov, one should not forget that Litvinenko was also a Russian citizen (though he accepted the British citizenship), that is why Russian law enforcement bodies “should be not indifferent to that has occurred”. Remedial decision should be taken and full, overwhelming objective investigation lead to assess what had happened in Britain, in cooperation with the law enforcement bodies of other countries, “including the Foggy Albion", Kolesnikov said. The Deputy Minister of Justice also noted that on results of this investigation law enforcement bodies "should give exhaustive information in mass media that there were no double-threefold standards”, Interfax says.
On the request to comment willingness to testify to the Scotland Yard experts expressed by the former FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin, condemned for disclosure of state secret, Kolesnikov replied that the question should be set to the representatives of the State Office of Public Prosecutor, however he himself considered that “there should be no secrets, no innuendoes -- all should be investigated".
Rosatom claims polonium-210 production under tight control in Russia
Russia produces eight grams of polonium- 210 a month, a high-ranking official of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) told journalists, news agency Interfax reports. The undisclosed official commented that this production proceeded under the tightest control. “It [polonium-210] cannot go missing in Russia," said he.
Interfax quotes the official as saying that polonium-210 has been sold to the United Kingdom and the United States. "We cannot control what happens to it later," he said. The official declined to offer any theories as to how former Russian Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko could have been poisoned by this radioactive substance in London.
Meanwhile two more central London locations are being investigated in connection with the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Sky News reports. The Health Protection Agency has confirmed they are the Parkes Hotel in Beaufort Gardens and 1 Cavendish Place. A third West End site, the Best Western Hotel on Shaftesbury Avenue, has been cleared after checks for radiation.
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