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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shuvalov, Schroder Defend Kremlin

The killings of former security services agent Alexander Litvinenko and journalist Anna Politkovskaya were "well thought-out provocations" meant to hurt the Kremlin's public image, a senior presidential aide says.

The aide, Igor Shuvalov, also takes issues with those who blame Litvinenko's death on President Vladimir Putin.

"It is foolish to link this murder to the head of the country," Shuvalov said Wednesday in Berlin at a high-profile discussion of Russian-German relations, Ekho Moskvy radio reported Thursday.

Litvinenko accused Putin of ordering his murder in a statement released after his death.

A fierce critic of Putin, the former KGB and Federal Security Service agent died after being poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in London in November.

Politkovskaya, an opposition journalist who wrote at great length about human rights abuses in Chechnya, was shot dead Oct. 7 in her apartment building in Moscow.

Neither crime has been solved.

Shuvalov's words were echoed by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, who now runs the Baltic gas pipeline project being spearheaded by state-run gas monopoly Gazprom.

Wednesday's discussion, on the "Strategic Partnership: Germany-Russia," was organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations and the magazine Russia Profile, which is jointly run by Independent Media, publisher of The Moscow Times, and the state news agency RIA-Novosti.

"Unfortunately, journalists die quite often in other countries, but why doesn't anybody try to accuse the government [of wrongdoing] in those situations? In Russia, no matter what happens, it's Putin," Schroder said.

Schroder criticized British investigators probing the Litvinenko murder, saying they had acted "unceremoniously" when they hinted that the guilty party had already been identified and was in Russia.

Putin is slated to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.

Former KGB agent Oleg Gordievsky, meanwhile, said Scotland Yard did not suspect Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, as had been widely believed, but a third, unidentified suspect. Lugovoi, also a former security services agent, and Kovtun, a businessman, met with Litvinenko on the day he was thought to be poisoned.

Gordievsky, who defected to Britain in 1985 and has accused Putin of being behind Litvinenko's death, said he believed Scotland Yard was looking for an unidentified man who entered Britain on a fake passport from a European Union member state, used another passport during his stay and left on a third passport.

"He took them out one by one, like the Chekists working in the '20s, '30s," Gordievsky said, referring to predecessors of the KGB.

He added that the police had a photograph of the suspect.

Scotland Yard refused to comment Thursday.