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Russia Says Suspected Killer Of Ex-KGB Agent 'A Victim'

Russian State Duma deputy Andrei Lugovoi is wanted by British authorities in connection with the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko.
MOSCOW -- Russian authorities have launched an investigation into the alleged attempted murder of Andrei Lugovoi, who is wanted in Britain as a suspect in the killing of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in 2006, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee, said on November 30 that "investigators have confirmed data which suggests Lugovoi was poisoned by the radioactive substance polonium-210 in London when meeting with Aleksandr Litvinenko [five years ago]."

Litvinenko, 44, a British citizen and former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operative, fell ill in London on November 1, 2006, shortly after meeting with Lugovoi. He died three weeks later of poisoning by polonium-210.

Litvinenko had left Russia for Britain in 2000 and became well-known for statements and articles criticizing the Russian government, in particular the FSB and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Litvinenko's death had a negative effect on Russian-British relations, as Moscow refused to extradite to Britain former KGB agent Lugovoi, whom British investigators consider the prime suspect in Litvinenko's murder.

British investigators say Litvinenko, Lugovoi, and Dmitry Kovtun -- an associate of Litvinenko -- met on November 1 in a London hotel bar where, according to police, they drank tea. Litvinenko became ill later that day and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later after being diagnosed with polonium poisoning.

In May 2007, an official investigation was completed and the case was transferred to the Crown Prosecution Service, which named Lugovoi as a suspect in the murder and requested his extradition to Britain.

Lugovoi, who is now a deputy in the Russian State Duma, denied any involvement in the murder.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office refused to extradite Lugovoi, saying Russian law prohibits the extradition of its citizens.

Since British laws exclude trials and sentencing in absentia, the British authorities have frozen the case.

Litvinenko's widow, Marina Litvinenko, told RFE/RL on November 23 -- the fifth anniversary of her husband's death -- that she had managed to persuade British authorities to hold an inquest, an investigation by a coroner into the circumstances of a violent death.

That sort of investigation proceeds as a trial, very often with the presence of jury, but is not empowered to issue a verdict.

Read more in Russian here