Russian Spy Reportedly Poisoned by Tea

The Associated Press
Friday, January 26, 2007; 10:37 PM

LONDON -- British police have concluded that a former Russian spy was poisoned by a lethal dose of radioactive Polonium-210 added to his tea at a London hotel, British and American television stations reported Friday.

Investigators have identified the teapot believed to have contained the radioactive tea, which eventually killed Alexander Litvinenko in November, Sky News said, citing unnamed Scotland Yard officials. ABC News had a similar report, citing an unidentified official.

Police officials and a spokesman at the hotel declined to comment on the reports.

The reports also said police have identified another former Russian spy, Andrei Lugovoi, as a suspect in the murder. Sky News said British prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge him.

The reports cap a week of media speculation on the direction of the British investigation into the death. The Guardian newspaper also reported Friday that police were preparing to submit evidence to prosecutors to decide whether to file charges against Lugovoi, citing unnamed government officials.

Lugovoi, who has strenuously denied playing any role in the murder, was not immediately available for comment.

Litvinenko drank tea with Lugovoi, Russian businessman Dmitry Kovtun and another man at the Millennium Hotel's bar on Nov. 1. Litvinenko, 43, died in a London hospital on Nov. 23.

ABC News said the teapot, found at the hotel, remained in use for several weeks after the poisoning, adding that its radiation readings were extremely high.

Lugovoi and Kovtun, who is also a former Russian security agent, have reportedly been treated for radiation contamination in Moscow.

Litvinenko fled to Britain after leaving Russia and was granted asylum. In exile, he became a vocal opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him in a deathbed statement of masterminding his death.

Russian officials have denied any involvement in the murder.

© 2007 The Associated Press