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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Detectives Focus on Lugovoi, Kovtun

British detectives investigating the death of Alexander Litvinenko say they are close to naming the suspected killers but have little hope the accused will be prosecuted.

Two Russian businessmen, former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi and retired military officer Dmitry Kovtun, are the focus of British detectives' investigation, British newspapers reported.

Lugovoi and Kovtun are reported to have been interviewed by detectives in Moscow in December. And both are reported to have said they met with Litvinenko in London on Nov. 1, the day Litvinenko fell ill.

Both Lugovoi and Kovtun insist they are innocent.

Still, late last week, British investigators found traces of polonium-210, the radioactive isotope used to kill Litvinenko, in London's Pescatori restaurant. Lugovoi is said to have dined at Pescatori before meeting Litvinenko on Nov. 1.

Citing a police source, The Daily Mirror reported Monday: "We are 100 percent sure who administered the poison, where and how."

The Daily Mirror futher reported that police would officially declare Lugovoi and Kovtun the guilty parties in a forthcoming file to be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

But British authorities are pessimistic that much will come of this.

"The odds of getting someone to face trial at the Old Bailey [London criminal court] are somewhere between slim and none," The Independent reported Saturday, citing a senior Scotland Yard, official.

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika pledged last month that Russian suspects would not be extradited to Britain. British investigators who came to Moscow in December were also told that they could not conduct a second round of interviews with anyone who had been questioned, including Lugovoi and Kovtun, but that they could come back to Russia to talk to new suspects or witnesses.

Lugovoi's lawyer, Andrei Romashov, told Itar-Tass on Monday that "he is deeply convinced that in this case Russian citizens cannot be suspects."

Lugovoi, reached by telephone Tuesday, declined to comment, saying he was "resting and having a holiday" outside the hospital. "Call me next week," he said.

Lugovoi and Kovtun were reportedly treated for radiation exposure in a Moscow clinic through most of December. Kovtun was said to have been exposed to a heavy dose.

On top of all this, London's Metropolitan Police are looking into the possibility that Litvinenko was actually poisoned twice -- not once, as originally thought -- with polonium-210.

Toxicology tests from the Litvinenko's autopsy revealed two spikes in his radiation poisoning, suggesting he may have received two separate doses.

The second dose is thought to have been administered at the Pine Bar, at London's Millennium Hotel, where Litvinenko met with Lugovoi and Kovtun. The first dose is likely to have come several days earlier, police said.

Eight of the Pine Bar's staff and one teacup there have tested positive for polonium-210.

Police initially believed Litvinenko had been poisoned Nov. 1 at the Itsu sushi bar during a meeting with Mario Scaramella, an Italian crime expert.

"It may well be that Mr. Litvinenko's killers poisoned him twice, possibly because they wanted to make absolutely sure he would not recover," The Sunday Telegraph reported, citing a Scotland Yard detective.

Lending greater mystery to the whole affair is recent news of the death of a Russian diplomat, Igor Ponomarev, who had been slated to meet Scaramella shortly before Scaramella met with Litvinenko.

On Nov. 6, Scaramella wrote in broken English in an e-mail to Litvinenko: "It was very strange that you were sick soon after our meeting. Mr. Igor Ponomarev I scheduled to meet in London at the International Maritime Organization suddenly died [of] a heart attack on October 30, the day before our meeting. Such an incredible coincidence."

Focus magazine, which is published in Germany, reported Sunday that before Ponomarev died, he had been complaining of symptoms suggesting that he had been poisoned.

Ponomarev collapsed at home after a night at the opera. Before he died, he was reported to have been gasping for water. Toxicologists cited by Focus said this suggested thallium poisoning. Litvinenko had been initially believed to have been poisoned with thallium.

Because Ponomarev was a diplomat, his body was flown to Russia, a press release issued by the International Maritime Organization said; he was buried in St. Petersburg.