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12 Dec, 2006 09:25

Litvinenko case: Russian prosecutors to fly to London

Litvinenko case: Russian prosecutors to fly to London

The investigation into the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko continues, both in London and Moscow. Russian prosecutors are due to fly to London as part of their inquiry into the case, though the exact date of their flight is still unknown.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, a key witness, Andrey Lugovoy, may be questioned a second time in connection with Litvinenko's alleged murder.

The British police are not revealing details of the visit of the Russian prosecutors, but some sources say they are expected to meet the former Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, and Chechen associate of Litvinenko, Akhmed Zakayev. Both of them are wanted in Russia on a number of charges: Mr Berezovsky is accused of a fraud as well as of an attempt to organise a state coup, while Mr Zakayev is wanted on terrorism charges. Both have been granted political asylum in Britain. 

Mr Berezovsky and Mr Zakayev are believed to be key witnesses in the case, and the information they could provide might be vital for the future of the investigation, since both of them knew the late Litvinenko quite well. Mr Berezovsky supposedly was Litvinenko's employer. He is said to have paid for Litvinenko's house in London. Mr Zakayev is known as a close friend of Litvinenko.

It is still unclear whether the British police will give the Russian visitors access to the people with political asylum in the UK.

According to some police sources in London, the investigation seems to have established that Aleksandr Litvinenko had not been contaminated before November 1. The police have tracked down the bus which Litvinenko took from his house to his meetings in the centre of London. Traces of radiation were not found on the bus.

Scotland Yard is not commenting on reports that a radioactive substance could have been slipped into Litvinenko’s drink, although there are some versions saying that Litvinenko’s glass in the Millenium hotel was proven to be contaminated. The police are still investigating how the poison was administered, and its movements, on and around the day Litvinenko fell ill.

As for another key figure in the investigation, Andrey Lugovoy, who is still in  hospital in Moscow, his first interview to Russian prosecutors in the presence of Scotland Yard lasted approximately 3 hours. He was treated as a witness, not as a suspect. He is prepared to co-operate further with both Russian and British detectives.

“Yesterday was my meeting with the representatives from the Russian General Prosecutor's office and representatives from Scotland Yard. I want to stress that before the meeting it was stressed that I will be interviewed as a witness and nothing else. The meeting went on for around three hours. It was constructive. I think I answered all of the questions conclusively. If it's needed, I'm ready to meet with them again. That's pretty much all. I also want to add that I met the representatives without any lawyers present. It again shows that I was interviewed as a witness, because under Russian law, a witness can decide whether or not to have lawyers present. I will not say anything about Dmitry Koftun, I think he can talk for himself,” told Andrey Lugovoy in the interview which he gave Russia Today on the phone.

Finally, some more details have appeared concerning another key witness, Dmitry Kovtun. The German police said they are more than certain that Kovtun, a man with a German residence permit, had been in contact with polonium-210  before  flying to London. They based their evidence on checking the car that was used by Kovtun on his way to the airport. Traces of polonium were found in the car, which means that when he arrived from Moscow he was already contaminated by it.

In general, all parties to the investigation are reluctant to share any details, at this point, in the case.