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Europe

Russia denies role in death of ex-spy Litvinenko

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-12-15

Russia on Friday rejected blame in the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, a day after a British lawyer said the Russian state was involved. The ex-spy died in 2006 after a radioactive substance was slipped into his tea in a London hotel.

Russia denied on Friday that it was involved in the death of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

A British lawyer had told a preliminary hearing into Litvinenko’s poisoning on Thursday that there was evidence the Russian government was involved in his death, which has soured relations between Moscow and London.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: “We hope that as a result of the (legal process) ... all the baseless allegations about some kind of a Russian involvement in this affair will be dispelled once and for all.”

Litvinenko, who had been granted British citizenship and become a vocal critic of the Kremlin, died in November 2006 after someone slipped polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope, into his cup of tea at a London hotel.

Six years later, British authorities are reopening investigations into the shocking circumstances of his death.

On his deathbed, the former Russian FSB agent accused the Kremlin - specifically Russian President Vladimir Putin - of being behind his killing, and his family has long demanded Russian authorities be held accountable.

Lukashevich, asked about the lawyer’s statement at a weekly briefing, acknowledged that Litvinenko’s death was still troubling ties between Russia and Britain. He said the inquest must be conducted “transparently and without prejudice.”

British police and prosecutors say there is enough evidence to charge two former KGB agents, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, but Moscow has flatly rejected calls to extradite them.

Hugh Davies, an attorney acting on behalf of the British inquest, said on Thursday that an examination of government material establishes “a prima facie case in the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-12-14

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