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22/11/2006

Former KGB man remains seriously ill in hospital

Former KGB colonel Alexander Litvinenko remains seriously ill in hospital after apparently being poisoned, amid claims that he recently received email death threats.

On Tuesday, Italian Mario Scaramella said that he met with Mr Litvinenko on November 1, when he first fell ill, and that both had discussed email death threats.

Mr Scaramella, who worked for the Italian government investigating KGB activity in Italy, said he had met with Mr Litvinenko at a sushi bar in Piccadilly to discuss the threats, but added that when he contacted him later that day, he was already falling ill.

Mr Litvinenko, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to have been investigating the recent murder of dissident Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Mr Litvinenko is now seriously ill in University College Hospital in London. It had originally been believed that he had been poisoned by toxic chemical thallium, but it is now believed that he could have been poisoned by radioactive thallium or another unknown substance.

Counter terrorism officers from Scotland Yard are investigating the case.

According to reports, Russia's foreign intelligence service (SVR) has denied any involvement in the alleged poisoning of Mr Litvinenko. The Interfax news agency quoted an SVR spokesperson as saying that it would not be in their interest to be "engaged in such activity".

Kremlin officials had earlier dismissed any suggestion that they were involved in the alleged poisoning, suggesting that any allegations were "sheer nonsense".

(KMcA)

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