UK finds radiation at more sites after ex-spy death

Traces of radiation have been found at several more sites in London during investigations into the death of a former KGB spy last week, British Home Secretary John Reid said on Monday.

Reid told Parliament the traces had been found at “several other premises” in addition to Alexander Litvinenko’s home and a hotel and restaurant he visited on November 1, the day he fell ill. Significant amounts of Polonium 210 were found in his body.

Before he died, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of murdering him. Russia denies any involvement.

Reid did not name the contaminated locations. Media reports cited a central London office block and an address in the capital’s exclusive Mayfair district. Police declined to comment.

Health officials have said Polonium 210 is dangerous only if it is swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through a wound. Reid said there was “no need for public alarm”.

But his comments deepened the mystery over how and where Litvinenko ingested the poison that caused his agonising death, causing his hair to fall out and gradually shutting down his vital organs.

The possible contamination of members of the public has heaped pressure on the government to explain what it knows about Litvinenko’s death.

About 500 people have called a hotline for health advice since Litvinenko’s death, the minister said.

A spokesperson for Britain’s Health Protection Agency said three people had been referred to a clinic for radiological assessment. She declined to comment on their symptoms.

Police are investigating the case as a suspicious death and the affair has raised tension between London and Moscow.

The Kremlin has described Litvinenko’s murder allegation as ridiculous, and Putin said the death was being used for “political provocation”.

Senior Cabinet minister Peter Hain on Sunday condemned “murky murders” that had taken place in Putin’s Russia and criticised “huge attacks” there on individual freedoms and democracy.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official spokesperson said on Monday it was premature to jump to conclusions.

“The prime minister and other ministers have repeatedly underlined our concern about some aspects of human rights in Russia,” he said. “In terms of this particular case, however, we do have to proceed carefully. There is a police investigation ongoing and we have to await the outcome.”

Litvinenko left the KGB’s main successor, the Federal Security Service, came to Britain with his wife and son in 2000, was granted asylum and became a British citizen last month.

Local authorities said an inquest into his death was expected to open on Thursday.—Reuters

 

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