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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chaika to Send Investigators to London

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said Sunday that a team of investigators would soon be sent to Britain to investigate the poisoning death of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko.

Chaika said investigators had submitted a lengthy request for assistance in the case to British authorities, totaling more than 100 pages, and was expecting full cooperation, RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying in an interview with Rossia television.

"Our investigators are preparing to travel to Britain in the nearest future to carry out their work," Chaika said.

The investigators planned to sit in on interviews and examine venues connected with Litvinenko's murder, he said.

Litvinenko died in a London hospital Nov. 23, several weeks after being poisoned with the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, he blamed President Vladimir Putin for his poisoning. The Kremlin has denied the allegation.

Scotland Yard investigators who went to Moscow in December were not allowed to question anyone directly, but only to sit in while Russian authorities conducted the interviews. Russia also has begun its own investigation, seen as a bid to keep control of the politically explosive case.

"We have established very good, constructive working relations with the British. They came here, we gave them all possible assistance in the course of their investigation on the territory of the Russian Federation," Chaika said.

Moscow has asked Britain for permission to interview more than 100 people, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev said in an interview published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday. He declined to name the people Russia wanted to interview, and it was unclear whether any were considered suspects. The Home Office declined to comment.

Chaika said the investigators would be operating under the same constraints as their British counterparts in Moscow, able only to attend interviews. Litvinenko fell ill after meeting with businessman Dmitry Kovtun; Andrei Lugovoi, also a former security officer; and Vyacheslav Sokolenko, head of a private Russian security firm, at a bar at the Millennium Hotel in London. All three men have denied involvement in the death.

Alex Goldfarb, a Kremlin critic and friend of Litvinenko, on Sunday accused Russian authorities of blocking the British investigation and pointlessly traveling to London. "This is nothing but a stunt designed to detract attention from Russia, a PR exercise to create an appearance of reciprocity," he said by telephone from London.

British authorities, meanwhile, are working with officials from 48 countries to evaluate about 450 people who were in London in November and fear they might have been exposed to the polonium-210 that killed Litvinenko. Britain's Health Protection Agency declined to identify the countries, but the United States was among them, U.S. health officials said. People who think they might have been exposed are invited to submit urine samples.

(AP, WP)