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Russian investigators to travel to London for inquiry into ex-Soviet spy's death

Updated:
LONDON (AP) Russian dissidents close to Alexander Litvinenko said Saturday they were worried about coming face to face with Moscow investigators who plan to visit London over the ex-Soviet spy's death from radiation poisoning.

Litvinenko, 43, issued a deathbed statement blaming Russian President Alexander Putin for his death, a charge the Kremlin has vehemently denied.

In her first public comments since his death, Litvinenko's widow was quoted by the Mail on Sunday newspaper as saying she did not believe Putin was personally responsible for the poisoning of her husband, who had become a British citizen this year.

``Obviously it was not Putin himself, of course not,'' Marina Litvinenko said. ``But what Putin does around him in Russia makes it possible to kill a British person on British soil. I believe that it could have been the Russian authorities.''

Police in Germany, meanwhile, said traces of radiation were found at two Hamburg-area homes linked to a contact of the former ex-KGB officer, while police combed a London hotel at the center of the investigation into his death.

A spokeswoman for Russia's Prosecutor General's office told The Associated Press about the plans to send Russian investigators to London, but said there was no concrete date. She said she was not authorized to give her name to media outlets.

Some emigres were concerned that the Kremlin would use its inquiries as a ``pretext to harass exiles in London,'' said Andrei Nekrasov, a friend of Litvinenko.

He said former Russian security officer Mikhail Trepashkin, who is serving a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of divulging state secrets, had said a Kremlin agent previously ordered to monitor Litvinenko was among those appointed to investigate the killing.

British police said they had no details of the visit by Russian investigators, and it was not immediately clear whether they would be given access to exiles granted political asylum by the British government.

Alex Goldfarb, a family friend, said he and Litvinenko's widow were prepared to meet with Russian officials, but on the condition British police first test the investigators for traces of polonium, the deadly isotope found in Litvinenko's body.

But The Mail on Sunday quoted Marina Litvinenko as saying she did not want to help Russian authorities with their investigation.

``I can't believe that they will tell the truth,'' she told the newspaper. ``I can't believe if they ask about evidence they will use it in he proper way.''

German police said Saturday they found traces of radiation at two Hamburg area homes linked to Dmitry Kovtun, a Russian businessman who was at a London hotel gathering that included Litvinenko. Traces were found at the Hamburg apartment of Kovtun's ex-wife, and an initial scan yielded contamination at his former mother-in-law's home in Haselau, west of the port city.

Investigations in Britain have focused on the Pine Bar at London's Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, where Litvinenko held a morning meeting over tea and gin with three fellow Russians on November 1st the day he fell ill.

Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper said police were testing a teacup and dishwasher at the hotel for signs of radiation.

Litvinenko met with Andrei Lugovoi, also an ex-Soviet agent, Kovtun and Vyacheslav Sokolenko, head of a private Russian security firm, in the hotel's intimate, blond oak-paneled bar. All three men have denied involvement in the ex-spy's death.

Litvinenko later met with Mario Scaramella, an Italian security expert, at a Piccadilly sushi bar.

By evening, Litvinenko was in a London hospital with stomach pains and nausea. He died 22 days later from radiation poisoning that caused his hair to fall out and organs to fail.

All seven employees working at the bar Nov. 1 showed evidence of exposure to polonium-210, Britain's Health Protection Agency said. Kovtun and Scaramella both have fallen ill since the meeting.

Dr. Michael Clark of the Health Protection Agency said it was likely the poisoning occurred at the hotel bar. He said food, drinks and cigarettes all could have been used to hide the poison.

Polonium is so dangerous that a lethal dose would occupy a space just 100 micrometers across, slightly larger than the point of a pin. Though polonium-210 is available by mail, one vendor in New Mexico, Bob Lazar, said it is sold in such minuscule amounts that 15,000 orders would be needed to potentially harm someone.

Scaramella was hospitalized last week in London. He said doctors told him he had received five times the lethal dose of polonium-210, although he showed no symptoms. He left the hospital Wednesday.

In Moscow, Kovtun has ``developed an illness also connected with the radioactive nuclide (substance),'' Russian prosecutors said. Lugovoi was tested for radiation poisoning in a hospital, and Russia's Interfax news agency said he showed signs of contamination.
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