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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Russian officials point to tycoon in spy's death

Poisoned former spy Alexander Litvinenko's deathbed message may have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin, but pro-Kremlin lawmakers and state-controlled television networks pointed the finger at a prominent Putin enemy in Britain - tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

Legislators seconded a top Putin aide's suggestion that Litvinenko's death in a London hospital Thursday was part of a plot against Russia and claimed that Berezovsky, a major critic whose asylum in Britain has enraged the Kremlin, was involved in the killing.

"The death of Litvinenko - for Russia, for the security services - means nothing," Valery Dyatlenko, a deputy head of the security committee in the lower parliament house, said on state-run Channel One television Friday, contending that neither the Kremlin nor Russia's intelligence agencies would have reason to kill him. "I think this is another game of some kind by Berezovsky."

Berezovsky amassed a fortune in dubious privatization deals after the 1991 Soviet collapse and became an influential Kremlin insider under President Boris Yeltsin, but fell out of favor with Putin and fled for Britain in 2000 to avoid a money laundering probe which he said was politically motivated.

He has been a thorn in Putin's side for years, assailing him for backtracking on democracy and accusing Russian security services of organizing the 1999 apartment-building bombings that helped stoke support for the Chechen war.

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