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Murder of KGB agent has nothing to do with Kremlin

The murder was probably a conspiracy aimed at hurting Russia's image in the world, reports Fred Weir.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2006 16:25 IST
Fred Weir
Fred Weir

The radiation murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko had nothing to do withKremlin and was probably a conspiracy aimed at hurting Russia's image in the world, the chief of Russia's spy agency said on Wednesday.

"There are grounds to suggest that Litvinenko was eliminated in order to stage a political provocation against Russia," Sergei Lebedev, head of the SVR external intelligence agency, said in an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.

He blamed unnamed anti-Kremlin exiles who are "willing to do anything to discredit the present government" for Litvinenko's death.

Russian security forces have not killed an opponent on foreign soil in decades, he said.

"The SVR has never been involved in any 'wet job'," he said. "(Soviet) units that used various 'daggers' once existed, but they were disbanded in the 1950's."

Litvinenko was poisoned in London by a dose of polonium-210in November, and the trail of radioactivity left by his killers has since triggered police probes in Britain, Russia and Germany.

Though many foreign newspapers have described Litvinenko as a "former spy", he was actually just a low-level member of domestic security forces in the 1990's, Lebedev said.

"Litvinenko and the SVR have absolutely nothing to do with each other," he said. "That's why all these rumours, that we sent him to the West or sent him into eternity, are complete nonsense."

Meanwhile, the head of Russia's domestic intelligence service, the FSB, has warned of a "sharp increase" in foreign espionage activities directed against Russia.

The FSB has caught 27 foreign intelligence officers and 89 foreign citizens who collaborated with spy agencies so far this year, FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev told the independent Interfax agency on Wednesday.

Seven Russians were arrested in the act of passing secrets to foreign agents, he added.

Patrushev accused a charity group working in the troubled region of Chechnya, the Danish Refugee Council, for distributing aid to separatist fighters rather than genuinely needy people.

"Some of this aid ends up in the hands of organized criminals and terrorists," he said.

First Published: Dec 20, 2006 16:25 IST