UK spies trying to destabilise Russia-Lugovoy

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MOSCOW, Nov 2 (Reuters) The man wanted by Britain for the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko says British secret services are trying to destabilise Russia.

Former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy, speaking exactly a year after meeting Litvinenko on the day he fell ill, said he had been caught in a web of intrigue that senior figures in Britain were using to damage Russia.

''For the past 15 years in particular, they have been doing everything they can to abase Russia and discredit her on the world stage,'' Lugovoy told reporters yesterday.

Lugovoy met Litvinenko at a London hotel on Nov. 1 last year with another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun. Later that day, Litvinenko complained of feeling ill. He was admitted to hospital and died on November 23 from polonium 210 poisoning.

In a posthumous letter, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being responsible for his death, a charge the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed as nonsense.

Litvinenko's wife, Marina, said Lugovoy should be brought to justice for killing her husband.

''I will not speak about Sasha today, this is not his day. This is the day of his killers,'' she said in a statement.

''The President of Russia, who has been named by Sasha as the instigator of his murder, is obstructing the investigation and backing the suspect with the full clout of Russia's statehood.'' Lugovoy again denied any involvement in the murder. Russia has refused to extradite him to Britain citing its constitution, which bans handing over its own citizens.

BRITISH SPIES Lugovoy repeated allegations that Litvinenko, a former FSB officer, had been working for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, after working for Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

Lugovoy once also worked for Berezovsky.

''Litvinenko had serious material problems, stemming in large part from Berezovsky having sacked him. And Litvinenko was trying to earn money any way he could,'' Lugovoy said.

He said he was using his role as a parliamentary candidate for the nationalist Liberal-Democratic party to draw attention to what he called the abasement of Russia by foreigners.

''I felt that I have to demonstrate to the entire Russian government what can happen to a Russian citizen, what may happen to the whole country, if we allow anybody to smear the Russian people any further,'' Lugovoy said.

Litvinenko's wife said Lugovoy's rise to prominence shed a bad light on modern Russia.

''Presidential support has turned the accused murderer into a national hero,'' she said. ''He is about to become a member of the Duma. With heroes, presidents and a parliament like that, Russia is destined to a sad future.'' Reuters SZ DB0904

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