And then of course, there's this: The Times of London's contacts in the British secret services reveal that they have concluded Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in a KGB plot (meanwhile, it was announced that the Kremlin will not allow British investigators to interview Mikhail Trepashkin and the other key witness they were seeking, Andrei Lugovoi, suddenly checked himself into a Russian hospital and likewise will be prevented from communicating with the investigators; Russia also announced that it would not extradite anyone accused by British authorities of complicty in the killing).
The Times of London reports:
Intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service.
Security sources have told The Times that the FSB orchestrated a “highly sophisticated plot” and was likely to have used some of its former agents to carry out the operation on the streets of . “We know how the FSB operates abroad and, based on the circumstances behind the death of Mr Litvinenko, the FSB has to be the prime suspect,” a source said yesterday. The involvement of a former FSB officer made it easier to lure Mr Litvinenko to meetings at various locations and to distance its bosses in the Kremlin from being directly implicated in the plot.
Intelligence officials say that only officials such as FSB agents would have been able to obtain sufficent amounts of polonium-210, the radioactive substance used to fatally poison Mr Litvinenko only weeks after he was given British citizenship. MI5 and MI6 are working closely with Scotland Yard on the investigation. A senior police source told The Times yesterday that the method used to kill the 43-year-old dissident was intended to send a message to his friends and allies. “It’s such a bad way to die, they must have known,” the source said. “The sheer organisation involved could only have been managed by professionals adept at operating internationally.”
Nine Scotland Yard detectives are in , and they are determined to question a number of well-connected businessmen, despite a warning yesterday from Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, that speculation over the poisoning is straining relations between the two governments. “It’s unacceptable that a campaign should be whipped up with the participation of officials. This is of course harming our relations,” Mr Lavrov said during a visit to . He said that he had spoken to Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, “about the necessity to avoid any kind of politicisation of this matter, this tragedy”.
British ministers insist that diplomatic sensitivities will not be allowed to obstruct the scope of the Yard investigation. John Reid, the Home Secretary, who was also in briefing his European counterparts on the Litvinenko affair, said: “The police will follow the evidence wherever it goes.”
The main figure that the British counter-terror team want to question is Andrei Lugovoy, a former FSB agent. He made three visits to in the fortnight before Mr Litvinenko fell ill and met him four times at various restaurants and bars. Mr Lugovoy, who is a successful entrepreneur, was briefly imprisoned in after he left the FSB. After his release his business career thrived and his company is reported to be worth more than £100 million. Two hotels in He was among three Russians who last met Mr Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel on November 1, the day that he fell ill. Last night Mr Lugovoy told The Times that he and two business associates, Dmitri Kovtun and Vyacheslav Sokolenko, were ready to meet detectives. The men have all denied involvement in any poison plot. Mr Lugovoy claims that he and his wife and children have been contaminated by polonium-210 and says that he is being “framed” for the killing. in which he stayed had traces of polonium-210, as did a British Airways aircraft that Mr Lugovoy travelled on.
Intelligence officials believe that a sizeable team was sent from to smuggle radioactive polonium-210 into Britain and to shadow Mr Litvinenko. The judgment by British Intelligence has been strengthened by the knowledge that the FSB has legislative approval for eliminating terrorists and enemies of the state abroad, after the passing of a controversial anti-terrorism law in the summer. The Yard team that arrived in last night has been told to take as long as it needs. Unlike in orthodox terrorist attacks, there is little chance that the killer is still in Britain and ready to strike again. Detectives have been warned to expect official obstruction from . Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and his senior officers are being kept briefed daily on the progress of the investigation. The Health Protection Agency said that police have asked them to examine three addresses for traces of polonium-210