04/12/2006

Police to visit Russia as Litvinenko investigation continues

Police investigating the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko are to travel to Russia as part of the investigation.

The announcement came as Home Secretary John Reid travelled to a meeting at the European Council in Brussels, where he briefed other EU interior ministers on the investigation.

On Sunday, Mr Reid said that the investigation was likely to extend beyond Britain.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died last month after falling ill at the beginning of November. A major dose of radioactive material polonium 210 was found in his body.

Traces of the substance have been found in several locations across London. Three British Airways planes were also tested amid fears that they were also contaminated. However, they since been given the all clear and have returned to service.

Mr Litvinenko fell ill after meeting with Mario Scaramella, an academic involved in an Italian inquiry into KGB activity in the country, at the Itsu sushi restaurant in Piccadilly on November 1.

Mr Scaramella remains under observation by doctors after also testing positive for polonium 210, although he is not showing any symptoms of poisoning.

Friends of Mr Litvinenko have claimed that he was poisoned on the orders of the Russian government - claims that have been dismissed by the Kremlin as "sheer nonsense". Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, have also denied any involvement in Mr Litvinenko's death.

The Health Protection Agency have confirmed that more than 3,000 people have now called the NHS Direct line following the radiation scare. Of that number, 179 have been followed up for further investigation with 27 people being referred to a specialist clinic as a precautionary measure.

Seventy urine samples, taken mainly from medical staff and ambulance workers, have also been tested but all have been found negative.

(KMcA)


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