Poisoned Russian dissident 'was an MI6 agent'
THE Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who died after being poisoned, was an MI6 agent, it has been claimed.
His death in November led to relations between London and Moscow plunging to their lowest since the Cold War.
If the allegations are true, it will heighten pressure on Whitehall to have the main murder suspect extradited from Russia to stand trial in England.
Litvinenko made a deathbed claim that he had been killed on the orders of Russian president Vladimir Putin, with whom he had several run-ins.
The dissident's supporters allege the murder was ordered to send a 'deliberate message' to others that there was no hiding place for those who opposed the Kremlin.
Scotland Yard named Andrei Lugovoy as the prime murder suspect but after he fled to Moscow following the killing, the Russians have refused to hand him over to stand trial.
He met Litvinenko at London's Millennium Hotel on the day the 43-year-old was poisoned with polonium 210 - a radioactive substance which was dropped into his tea.
Litvinenko defected to Britain in 2000 and was granted political asylum the following year along with his wife, Marina, 44, and the couple's son, Anatoly, who is now 13.
He fled his native country after accusing President Putin's government of being complicit in the bombing of two apartment blocks in Moscow during 1999, which left more than 300 people dead.
The Kremlin blamed the attacks on Chechnyan separatists but this has always been a source of great debate.
Lugovoy claims that during his meeting with Litvinenko in the hotel, the spy tried to recruit him to work for the British.
He refused and returned home within a couple of days.
By that time, Litvinenko was in a London hospital, enduring an agonising death. He died three weeks later. A subsequent investigation by Scotland Yard revealed traces of polonium 210 on an aircraft in which Lugovoy had travelled and a hotel where he had stayed after Litvinenko fell ill.
Only last week, Litvinenko's widow called upon the EU to force Moscow to hand over Lugovoy to the British.
She has rubbished the claims her husband was an MI6 agent, describing them as "nonsense".
Speaking in Lisbon during a joint EU-Russian summit, she said: "President Putin is providing Mr Lugovoy with his personal endorsement. This indicates that Russia has something to hide."
Litvinenko's friend Alex Goldfarb also believes Putin ordered the killing. He said: "Mr Putin should know that this issue will not go away
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