Friday, November 24, 2006

Do US Authorities pull things like this on their own "mouthy" citizens?

Alexander Litvinenko lies in bed in a London hospital in a photograph released by his family on Monday

Former spy poisoned by radiation, UK officials say

POSTED: 11:22 a.m. EST, November 24, 2006

Story Highlights

NEW: Health officials say former spy died of radiation poisoning
• Police plan to search for radioactive material in various locations
• Alexander Litvinenko implicates President Vladimir Putin in his death

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned by radiation, according to British health officials.

"A large quantity of alpha radiation from polonium 210 was found in the urine of Mr. Litvinenko," Roger Cox, director of Britain's Health Protection Agency, said Friday.

Litvinenko -- a longtime critic of the Russian government, who had been living in Britain -- died Thursday in a London hospita.

Cox said there was a "very small" risk to medical staff who treated Litvinenko, 43, after he fell ill three weeks ago.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Cox said it was too early to say whether there was a radiation risk to the public at the restaurant where Litvinenko dined the night he was apparently poisoned.

Dr. Pat Troop, the agency's chief executive, said Litvinenko "had a high dose of radiation."

"For somebody to have this level of radiation they would have to have eaten it, inhaled it or taken it in through a wound," she told reporters.

Polonium is a by-product of uranium. It was discovered by Polish chemist Marie Sklodowska Curie in 1898.

The findings of the agency came just hours after British Home Secretary John Reid said police were investigating Litvinenko's death.

"As part of this investigation, the police have called in expert assistance to search for any residual radioactive material at a number of locations."

Litvinenko and his friends had the Russian government for his sudden illness earlier this month. (Friends react)

In a statement read after his death, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating his killing and said the Russian leader would face "a howl of protest from around the world."

"You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics claim," he said in the statement released Friday.

"You may succeed in silencing one man. But a howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done."

Litvinenko spokesman Alex Goldfarb said the statement was dictated on November 21 from the man's London hospital bed. (Read full statement)

The statement also said: "You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women."

Putin, speaking later Friday at news conference in Helsinki, Finland, called Litvinenko's death a tragedy.

But he said British medical documents did not show "that it was a result of violence, this is not a violent death, so there is no ground for speculations of this kind."

Litvinenko died Thursday night after falling ill three weeks ago amid speculation that he had been poisoned.

Hospital officials said he died from an undetermined illness.

Kremlin denies involvement

Also Friday, the Kremlin attempted to distance itself from accusations it had plotted to assassinate Litvinenko because of his outspoken criticism of the Russian government.

"We don't have any reaction to the allegations," said Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, when asked for a response about Litvinenko's supposed poisoning and death at the hands of the former communist nation.

"The allegations are nothing but nonsense. You can't react from nonsense."

Peskov -- attending the European Union Summit in Helsinki alongside Putin --added that it was Britain's responsibility to launch an investigation into the death since that was where Litvinenko had been living for the past several years.

Doctors reported earlier Thursday that Litvinenko's condition had suffered a "major deterioration" overnight, and that extensive tests had failed to turn up the cause of his illness. He was pronounced dead at 9:21 p.m. Thursday (4:21 p.m. ET), hospital spokesman Jim Down said.

Down said doctors at University College Hospital "did everything possible to save his life." He declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

"Our thoughts are with Mr. Litvinenko's family," he said.

Goldfarb, Litvinenko's spokesman, said Wednesday that Litvinenko had suffered heart failure and was placed on life support.

Litvinenko said he was poisoned after meeting with a contact who claimed to have information connecting the Russian government with the October slaying of a frequent critic, journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

A Russian former intelligence official was quoted on Friday as saying he was ready to answer any questions from British police over his meeting Litvinenko. (Full story)

Fell ill after meeting

Litvinenko fell ill hours after the meeting, which took place at a London sushi restaurant -- but was able to spend more than 15 hours talking with detectives during his hospitalization, Goldfarb said.

His combination of symptoms -- including dehydration, heart complications and hair loss -- led doctors to suspect the heavy metal thallium. Tests ruled out thallium poisoning or any radioactive material, and one of his doctors, Amit Nathwani, said it was "quite possible" that the cause would never be known.

Litvinenko was once a colonel in Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB. He has been a defender of the Chechen separatists who have battled Moscow's rule for much of the past 15 years, and has accused the government of orchestrating the bombings of a string of apartment buildings as a pretext for its 1999 invasion of the breakaway republic.

He left Russia in 2000, accusing his former agency of planning to kill opponents of Putin, and he recently blamed the Kremlin for Politkovskaya's death.

FSB spokesman Sergei Ivanov told the Russian news agency Interfax on Wednesday that the agency was "sorry for what has happened to him," and wished Litvinenko a "speedy recovery."

Ivanov suggested the culprit lay among Litvinenko's associates in London. And others say Litvinenko had underworld connections that might have been behind his poisoning.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click Here to see where I found this above story.


Blogger Mother Jones RN said...

I've been asking myself that very question. Scary.


Fri Nov 24, 11:44:00 PM 2006  

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