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Poisoned ex-Russian spy Litvinenko dies - hospital

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Nov 24 (Reuters) Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in hospital late yesterday three weeks after he was poisoned in London.

Litivnenko died at University College Hospital at 9.21 pm local time after his condition sharply deteriorated, a hospital spokesman said.

''The medical team at the hospital said it did everything possible to save his life,'' said Jim Down, reading from a statement.

Police said they were investigating the circumstances surrounding how Litvinenko, whom they said was 43, fell ill.

''The matter is being investigated as an unexplained death,'' the police said in a statement.

A critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko had said he fell ill after meeting two Russians at a hotel. He had been investigating the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, also a vocal critic of Putin, who was gunned down at her Moscow flat on October 7.

''The bastards got me. But they won't get everybody,'' he said in his final interview to a friend and film-maker, Anrei Nekrasov, before losing consiousness. The comments were published in Friday's edition of the Times newspaper.

Britain's anti-terrorism police were called in to investigate the case after doctors determined last week his illness was caused by poison.

Litvinenko's friends accuse the Kremlin of orchestrating a plot to poison him, but Russia has dismissed the allegation as ''nonsense''.

A source in the Russian delegation travelling with Putin, who is in Helsinki for an EU-Russia summit, described former spy's fate as tragic.

''It is a human tragedy. The man was poisoned. But the accusations towards the Kremlin are so unbelievable, they are too silly to be commented on by the president or anyone from the Russian side,'' the source told reporters late on Thursday before news emerged of Litvinenko's death.

Reuters SBA VP0530

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