By RIA Novosti, Published Globalsecurity.org 10:58 12/12/2010
MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti) – Russia was tracking the killers of Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko before he was poisoned but was warned off by Britain, which said the situation was under control, The Guardian reported on Sunday referring to WikiLeaks cables.
Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning on November 23, 2006 in London. Large traces of polonium-210 were found in his body. British investigators accused Russian agent-turned-businessman Andrei Lugovoi of the murder, and demanded his extradition, sparking a major diplomatic row.
The paper referred to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable recording a 2006 meeting between an ex-CIA bureau chief and a former KGB officer.
The secret memo written by staff at the U.S. embassy in Paris records “an amicable 7 December dinner meeting with ambassador-at-large Henry Crumpton and Russian special presidential representative Anatoliy Safonov”, two weeks after Litvinenko’s death from polonium poisoning had triggered an international hunt for his killers, the paper said, referring to the U.S. embassy cable.
During the dinner, Safonov, an ex-KGB colonel-general, cited the recent events in London, specifically, Litvinenko’s murder by exposure to radioactive agents “as evidence of how great the terrorist threat remained” and how much more both countries had to do to tackle terrorism,” the paper said.
The memo further records that Safonov claimed that “Russian authorities in London had known about and followed individuals moving radioactive substances into the city but were told by the British that they were under control before the poisoning took place”.
The memo contains an observation from U.S. embassy officials that Safonov’s comments suggested Russia “was not involved in the killing, although Safonov did not offer any further explanation,” the paper quoted the cable as saying.
The secret memo is set to reignite the diplomatic row surrounding Litvinenko’s unsolved murder that year, which many espionage experts have linked directly to the Kremlin, the paper said.