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UK police in Litvinenko probe get Moscow visas

Written by: Staff
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MOSCOW, Dec 4 (Reuters) The Russian embassy in London has issued visas allowing British police investigating the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko to visit Moscow from today, the foreign ministry said.

''We can confirm that the Russian embassy in London has issued visas, effective from today, to Scotland Yard experts,'' a ministry spokesman said.

This was in line with police in London who said yesterday that nine British detectives might fly to Moscow as early as today to speak to witnesses who met the former Russian spy in London shortly before his death.

Litvinenko, a former agent of the Russian state security service, died in London after poisoning with radioactive polonium 210.

From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his slow and agonising death, which sparked a health scare in Britain and strained London's relations with Moscow.

The Kremlin denies involvement and has promised full cooperation with the British investigation. Other theories have centred on the possible involvement of rogue Russian agents.

Litvinenko met Russian citizens at London's Millennium Hotel on November 1, the day he fell ill. The Russians have since returned to Russia.

Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB agent, and businessman Dmitry Kovtun met Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel. Lugovoy told British newspapers Litvinenko wanted to discuss a business opportunity and he had nothing to do with any attempt on Litvinenko's life.

REUTERS LL HS1434

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