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Russia's top prosecutors launched Thursday a criminal investigation into the poisoning of Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko
Russia's top prosecutors launched Thursday a criminal investigation into the poisoning of Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko, and into a related murder attempt on a Russian businessman. The Prosecutor General's Office said the criminal cases were launched as a result of inspections, which revealed that Litvinenko died after being poisoned with a radioactive isotope. Dmitry Kovtun, who met with Litvinenko in London in October, was diagnosed with an illness also caused by a radioactive nuclide, the statement said. Litvinenko, 43 at the time of his death, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin's administration and a close associate of exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died in a London hospital November 23. His body was found to contain a lethal dose of polonium-210, a radioactive isotope. British police said Wednesday that they will investigate Litvinenko's case as a murder, in view of the preliminary results of the forensic examination. They arrived in Moscow Monday to interview people who met with Litvinenko, a British national, around the time of his reported poisoning at the beginning of November. Kovtun, a business partner of a key witness in the Litvinenko case, Andrei Lugovoi, was questioned Tuesday, Lugovoi's lawyer said earlier. A source close to Lugovoi, a businessmen and former officer of the Federal Protection Service, said earlier that investigators might not be able to question the witness, who is still undergoing medical checks. But Lugovoi's lawyer, Andrei Romashov said he was unaware that the Prosecutor General's Office was opening a criminal case into the murder of Litvinenko. "We do not have such information," he said. Traces of radiation have been detected in the hotel rooms in London where Lugovoi stayed in October and November, and on the airliners in which he flew to the UK, popular Russian daily Kommersant said Wednesday.
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