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Police backtrack in spy case
Contacts of radiation-poison victim given the all-clear after hospital tests in Germany.
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2006 12:38 GMT

British detectives in Moscow are also questioning Andrei Lugovoi, a business associate of Kovtun

German authorities say that four people close to a Russian contact of Alexander Litvinenko, a former spy who died from radiation poisoning, have not suffered contamination as had at first been feared.
The former wife of Dmitry Kovtun, her two small children and boyfriend were given the all-clear after undergoing tests in a hospital in Hamburg in northern Germany, Gerald Kirchner of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection said.

"We can rule out any danger for these four people," Kirchner said.

  

Police had said on Monday that the four had shown signs of contamination after Kovtun had stayed at their home.

  

Kovtun is one of three Russians who met Litvinenko at a London hotel on November 1, the day the former FSB agent and critic of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, became fatally ill.

 

Investigation continues

 

He is being investigated for bringing polonium 210, the radioactive substance that killed Litvinenko, into Germany in late October when he passed through on his way from Moscow to London.

 

Traces of polonium 210 were found in the apartment of Kovtun's ex-wife, her mother's home and in a car he used and an immigration office he visited.

  

The discovery has widened the British-led investigation into Litvinenko's death. A Scotland Yard detective flew to Hamburg on Monday to meet German police.

  

Meanwhile, British detectives in Moscow questioned Andrei Lugovoi, a business associate of Kovtun, who was also at the meeting with Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel in London.

  

British police are reportedly increasingly convinced that the poisoning took place at the hotel.

  

Litvinenko's death has prompted allegations that the Russian authorities are using dirty tricks to silence their critics.

  

Litvinenko claimed from his deathbed that he had been a target of Putin.

  

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, urged Moscow on Tuesday to co-operate fully with the investigation into his death.

 

Russia has strongly denied having any role in the death.
Source:
Agencies
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