Russian poisoned to death worked for British spy agency

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 13, 2012 14:20 hrs

London, Dec 13 (IANS) Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident and former KGB agent who was allegedly poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 in 2006, worked for British secret service MI6 before his death, an inquest heard Thursday.

Litvinenko was regularly paid for information by the secret service and had a handler called "Martin" as he helped investigate Russian organised crime, the Telegraph reported.

Submissions from the British government say there is prima facie evidence that the Russian state was involved in Litvinenko's death.

Litvinenko was allegedly poisoned while drinking tea during a meeting with former security colleagues in London's Grosvenor Square in November 2006. He died three weeks later in a hospital.

KGB official Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects but both deny any involvement.

A preliminary inquest hearing was told Litvinenko was working for MI6 while in Britain, and that he was regularly tasked by "Martin" and had a specific phone to only contact him on.

MI6 also encouraged Litvinenko to work for the Spanish intelligence services who were investigating Russian organised crime and links to the Russian state and President Vladimir Putin, the daily said.

Lugovoi has resisted attempts to extradite him. He has since been elected to the Duma in Russia giving him effective immunity from prosecution.

The substantial inquest hearing, when spies are expected to given evidence, is due to start in May next year.

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