New twist in Litvinenko case

In Moscow Russian investigators along with British police have questioned Dmitry Kovtun. In a new twist in the Aleksandr Litvinenko murder inquiry, the key Russian witness says his poisoning may have taken place before he fell ill on November 1.

German police say they will examine Dmitry Kovtun's claim that Litvinenko must have been poisoned in mid-October

Kovtun says he could have picked up traces of polonium from Litvinenko during a meeting that month. “As long as I'm in hospital, I am co-operating with Scotland Yard and the Russian Prosecutor General's office,” Mr Kovtun said.

But Litvinenko did not fall ill until November 1.

He died in London 3 weeks later after receiving a lethal dose of radioactive Polonium-210. “Through my attorney, Stephan Nick, I've passed on information to investigators in Germany, having expressed my readiness to co-operate with German investigators in addition to the ones from Russia and Great Britain,” the witness added.

Mr Kovtun also denied some inaccurate information spread by German media, saying “At the moment I am in Moscow and I can prove it in many ways, if it is necessary, and I'm most certainly not in Berlin. I want to add that I have never been in a coma and have not died as it was reported by the Bremen Radio.”

The mystery surrounding Mr Litvinenko's death has sparked a cross-border investigation in London, Moscow and Hamburg and generated a string of conspiracy theories.