Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Litvinenko Target Reports Confirmed

The head of a private center that trains security personnel and held a competition for special forces confirmed Tuesday that the center has used shooting targets bearing photographs of Alexander Litvinenko, the former agent who was fatally poisoned in London last year.

Sergei Lysyuk, head of the Vityaz Center, said, however, that he had been unaware that the picture on the targets was of Litvinenko.

"The fact that it was Litvinenko we only found out later from the press," Lysyuk said. "We did not shoot at Litvinenko, we shot at a target."

Use of the target became known this week after national media published photographs of Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov visiting the center in early November. His visit, to present awards in a competition for Interior Ministry special forces, came about a week after Litvinenko fell ill. One photo shows the Litvinenko target in the background behind Mironov.

Lysyuk insisted that his company does not normally hold such contests and was granting a favor to former Interior Ministry colleagues, whose own training ground was being repaired.

A promotional video by Vityaz circulating on the Internet also shows trainees in camouflage fatigues shooting at a Litvinenko target, but Lysyuk said the video was made in 2002 and that the trainees were men about to enter the military.

Dmitry Peskov, a senior Kremlin spokesman, said using a person's face as a shooting range "was ethically incorrect," but stressed that it was the company's responsibility and insisted that government troops were not involved in the exercises.

"There is no talk of such shooting ranges being used by Russian special forces or by the Vityaz unit," Peskov said. "This [company] has no relation to the elite Vityaz troops."

Also Tuesday, two key figures in Litvinenko investigation said in a TV interview that they would consider going to Britain if requested to by investigators.

Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun met with Litvinenko in London on Nov. 1, hours before he said he fell ill; Litvinenko died Nov. 23 and doctors said he had been poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope.

Kovtun and Lugovoi were questioned in Moscow in interrogations observed by Scotland Yard investigators last month, and recent British media reports have claimed that Lugovoi is seen as the prime suspect.

Lugovoi, in an interview with the government-funded satellite channel Russia Today, said the British reports were lies.

"I stress that I remain a witness in the Litvinenko case," he said.

Russia has said it will not extradite any citizen charged by Britain in the case. But Kovtun, when asked whether he would go to Britain if investigators there requested it, said "we will think about this." Lugovoi added: "Never say 'never.'"

Lugovoi and Kovtun, both businessmen who were formerly in the Russian security services, were hospitalized for suspected radiation poisoning in December. They said in the interview that their health was satisfactory now, but declined to give details.