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Russian Tycoon Says Ex-Spy Murder Claim 'Outrageous'

Boris Berezovsky walks into the High Court in central London on February 8.
LONDON (Reuters) -- Exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky said today it was outrageous to claim he was responsible for the death of his friend Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who was murdered in London in 2006.

Berezovsky was appearing at London's High Court where he is suing the Russian state-owned TV channel RTR Planeta over a claim he was behind the murder of Kremlin critic Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with his murder and I have cooperated fully with the police in the course of their investigations," he told the court.

"I even voluntarily gave an interview to the Russian investigators," said Berezovsky, 63, a businessman wanted in Moscow on criminal charges but whom Britain has refused to extradite.

Berezovsky told the court that Litvinenko, who he knew as Sasha, had twice saved his life and their shared history as exiles and opponents of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the FSB security service had cemented their friendship.

"We shared a dramatic and dangerous history. He had helped me and I him, and, fundamentally, we shared the same enemy," Berezovsky said.

He said he felt the April 2007 program, which included an interview with a silhouetted figure named Pyotr, was deliberate propaganda to threaten his reputation, asylum status, and his security, the Press Association reported.

He said he was shown saying that if he disliked someone he would kill them, but told the court the remark, which he did not recall saying, was either an ironic or joking response to a question.

"That the words have been taken out of context and used to suggest I am a murderer is absolutely outrageous and deeply offensive," he said.

Litvinenko's death led to one of the worst rows between Britain and Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Britain has called on Moscow to extradite former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi to stand trial for the murder. Lugovoi, who was later elected to the Russian parliament giving him immunity from prosecution, denies any link to the death.

Berezovsky's lawyer has told the London court that the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (RTR), which has never suggested that what it broadcast was true, had declined to take part in the proceedings.

Also being sued is Vladimir Terluk, who Berezovsky alleges is Pyotr. The hearing is expected to continue into next week.