Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Radiation Found at 2 More Sites in London

The British government appealed for calm on Monday as scientists discovered more traces of radiation and three people who fell sick were being tested for the deadly radioactive poison that killed former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko.

The government ordered a formal inquest into his death and British Home Secretary John Reid, in a special address to the House of Commons, warned against rushing to conclusions.

Litvinenko, 43, died last week after falling ill from what doctors said was polonium-210 poisoning. The substance is deadly if ingested or inhaled.

Reid said the tests on the three people were only a precaution.

"The nature of this radiation is such that it does not travel over long distances, a few centimeters at most, and therefore there is no need for public alarm," Reid said in a special address to the House of Commons after opposition calls.

Traces of radiation were found at a bar in London's Millennium Hotel, a branch of Itsu Sushi restaurant near Piccadilly Circus, Litvinenko's house in North London and a section of the hospital where he was treated before he fell ill Nov. 1.

The sushi restaurant and part of the hospital have been closed for decontamination while tests are still under way to determine if the hotel needs to be decontaminated.

Two other sites -- an office block in London's West End and an address in the posh neighborhood of Mayfair -- also showed traces of radiation, residents said, although police and health officials would not immediately confirm this.

Some 500 people have called a hotline for health advice since Litvinenko's death, but only 18 people were referred to the Health Protection Agency.

Of those 18, three exhibited symptoms that health officials thought should be examined at a special clinic as a precaution, said Katherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency. She refused to elaborate on their symptoms. The tests should take about one week.

London's Metropolitan Police said they were investigating the case as a "suspicious death" rather than murder. They have not ruled out the possibility that Litvinenko might have poisoned himself.

Although an autopsy has not started yet because of concerns over radioactivity, an inquest into his death could begin as early as Thursday, said Matt Cornish, a spokesman for Camden Council. The local government body oversees the North London Coroner's Court. The opening is a legal formality and such investigations are almost always adjourned immediately, sometimes for months.

Coroner's inquests in Britain are meant to determine the cause of death but they sometimes cast blame.

The affair has raised tension between London and Moscow.

Senior British Cabinet Minister Peter Hain on Sunday condemned "murky murders" that had taken place in Putin's Russia and criticized "huge attacks" there on individual freedoms and democracy.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said Monday that 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."

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

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that: "We are flabbergasted by the accusation that Moscow was somehow a participant.

"This is hysteria, and it is hysteria aimed against Russia," he said. "We have a feeling that there is some kind of director behind this."

He accused the British media of shunning objectivity and choosing a "path of uncompromising accusations."

Other Russian officials have accused Boris Berezovsky, the one-time Kremlin powerbroker who lives in asylum in Britain, of involvement in the poisoning. Berezovsky, Litvinenko's former employer, is a fierce critic of Putin.

The Russian press, meanwhile, was awash with speculation Monday on who poisoned Litvinenko.

Andrei Lugovoi, a former colleague of Litvinenko who met with him at the London hotel on Nov. 1, suggested that the intended target might have been Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev, not Litvinenko, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Lugovoi said Litvinenko often drove Zakayev around in Zakayev's car. Zakayev, who has political asylum, lives near Litvinenko's home.

Alexander Gusak, Litvinenko's former boss at the Federal Security Service, or FSB, speculated that Litvinenko might have been killed in a vendetta after torturing a captured Chechen rebel to death while still in the FSB, Kommersant reported.

Litvinenko's symptoms indicate that he might have been poisoned by a combination of polonium-210 and cancer drugs, Pavel Lobkov, a prominent television journalist with a doctorate in biology, wrote in the Russian version of Newsweek.

Lobkov noted a recent high-profile case of poisoning with cancer drugs in Russia. Roman Tsepov, 42, a prominent St. Petersburg businessman and former bodyguard to Putin, died after being poisoned with a massive dose of a leukemia drug in September 2004.

Also on Monday, an aide to former Yukos shareholder Leonid Nevzlin said Litvinenko had traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel, a few months ago to give Nevzlin a dossier of information about the Yukos affair.

The aide, Eric Wolfe, declined to disclose the contents of the dossier, which he said he sent to the British Embassy in Tel Aviv on Monday. He said he sent the information on his own initiative.

Litvinenko left the FSB, came to Britain with his wife and son in 2000, was granted asylum and became a British citizen last month.

(AP, MT, Reuters)