Dead Spy's Photo Used in Target Practice
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 4:11 PM
MOSCOW -- The head of a center that trains security personnel and held a competition for Russian special forces confirmed Tuesday that it has used shooting targets showing the photo of a former agent who was fatally poisoned in London last year.
However, Sergei Lysyuk, head of the Vityaz Center, said he had been unaware that the photo target showed the poisoned ex-agent, Alexander Litvinenko.
"The fact that it was Litvinenko, we only found out later from the press," Lysyuk told The Associated Press. "We did not shoot at Litvinenko, we shot at a target."
Russian media this week published photographs of Sergei Mironov, head of the Russian parliament's upper house, visiting the center in early November. His visit, to present awards in a competition for Interior Ministry special forces, came about a week after Litvinenko fell ill; one photo shows the Litvinenko target in the background.
Lysyuk insisted his company held the contest only as a favor to former Interior Ministry colleagues, whose own training ground was being repaired.
A promotional video by Vityaz circulating on the Internet, which first appeared on the Polish news Web site Dziennik.pl, also shows trainees in camouflage shooting at a Litvinenko target, but Lysyuk said the video was made in 2002 and that the trainees were men about to enter the military.
Litvinenko, once an agent in the Federal Security Service, the Soviet KGB's main successor, fled to Britain and was granted asylum after accusing his superiors in 1998 of ordering him to kill Boris Berezovsky, a Russian tycoon and one-time Kremlin insider who also has been granted British citizenship.
In exile, he became a vocal opponent of President Vladimir Putin and accused him in a deathbed statement of masterminding the poisoning. The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement in Litvinenko's death.
Dmitry Peskov, a senior Kremlin spokesman, said using a person's face as a shooting range "was ethically incorrect," but stressed it was that company's responsibility and insisted government troops were not involved in the exercises.
Associated Press Writer Maria Danilova contributed to this report.