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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Russian ex-spy 'poisoned' in London

LONDON, England (AP) -- British police have confirmed they are investigating the suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy who has accused his ex-colleagues of involvement in terrorism and assassinations.

Several British newspapers reported that Col. Alexander Litvinenko, 43, has been hospitalized since Nov. 1 with symptoms of near-fatal poisoning.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that its detectives were trying to identify what was in his system -- and who put it there.

The Sunday Times reported that Litvinenko has suffered damage to his kidneys and bone marrow, is vomiting regularly and has lost his hair.

The newspaper said it interviewed him at his bedside in a London hospital, where he was registered under a false name. It said he fell ill after having a meal with an Italian man who claimed to have information on the killing of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down on Oct. 7 outside her Moscow apartment building. Her attackers have not been found.

Politkovskaya wrote articles criticizing abuses by Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen forces fighting separatists in Chechnya.

Litvinenko joined the KGB, the spy agency of the former Soviet Union, and rose to the rank of colonel in its successor, the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

He fled Russia and claimed asylum in Britain in November 2000, two years after publicly accusing his FSB superiors of ordering him to kill tycoon Boris Berezovsky, at the time a powerful Kremlin insider.

He also has accused FSB agents of coordinating 1999 apartment-house bombings that killed more than 300 people in Russia and sparked the second war in Chechnya.

In 1999 and 2000, Litvinenko spent nine months in jail awaiting trial on charges of abusing his office, but he was acquitted. He then fled to Britain.
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