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Financial Times: Russia warns over relations with UK

By Neil Buckley in Moscow and Jimmy Burns and Daniel Dombey in London
Published: December 4 2006 20:42 | Last updated: December 4 2006 20:42

Russia warned on Monday that the mounting furore over the poisoning in London of Alexander Litvinenko was damaging relations between the two countries.

As British investigators arrived in Moscow last night for a highly unusual joint probe, Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, hit out at what he called the “politicisation” of the case.

UK investigators and officials have refused to rule out the possibility that the former KGB agent was killed as a result of a conspiracy involving Russian security services involved in political manoeuvring.

The Russian prosecutor-general’s office confirmed that London’s police had requested assistance with its investigation. Mr Litvinenko died after being poisoned with radioactive polonium 210. His death led to a health scare in Britain in which buildings and people were found to be contaminated with radiation and three British Airways aircraft were grounded.

Moscow has been irritated by newspaper reports from London that Moscow tried to prevent the publication of Mr Litvinenko’s deathbed letter. “This is damaging our relations,” Mr Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. “We must avoid speculation on this subject.”

British investigators plan to interview at least three Russians who met Mr Litvinenko on November 1, the day he fell ill.

Particular attention is focusing on Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB officer who also has past links – like Mr Litvinenko – with Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch.

Mr Lugovoi was unavailable for comment on Monday but in previous media statements has denied any responsibility for Mr Litvinenko’s poisoning.

Additional reporting by Sarah Laitner in Brussels

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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