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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigator Criticizes Berezovsky, Zakayev

Businessman Boris Berezovsky and Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev refused to answer key questions posed by authorities probing the poisoning death of former security agent Alexander Litvinenko, an investigator said in an interview published Monday.

The two self-exiled Kremlin adversaries answered fewer than half the questions they were asked in hours-long sessions late last month, Andrei Mayorov, the head of the team of Russian investigators who interviewed them in London, told Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"In a word, they did not answer the most key questions," Mayorov said.

His comments were part of back-and-forth accusations and insinuations over the death of Litvinenko, a Kremlin critic and Berezovsky associate who died in a London hospital in November following a dose of radioactive polonium-210.

Berezovsky has echoed Litvinenko's deathbed accusation that blamed President Vladimir Putin for his death. Pro-Kremlin lawmakers and state-controlled media have said Berezovsky could have been behind his death.

Mayorov made no accusations and referred to Berezovsky and Zakayev as witnesses. But he said Berezovsky declined to answer questions about his financial and business ties to Litvinenko, adding that "Litvinenko, especially recently, in many ways depended on [Berezovsky]."

National media have speculated that a falling-out between Berezovsky and Litvinenko could have led to his death; some have suggested that Berezovsky reduced an allowance they claimed he was paying Litvinenko, forcing him to find other sources of revenue that could have gotten him into trouble.

Mayorov said Berezovsky also refused to talk about how Litvinenko had been making a living recently, or about "certain people" he said investigators believe met with Litvinenko shortly before his poisoning.

"All this important information, which doubtless would help the investigation, we could have received from Berezovsky and Zakayev, who called themselves the deceased's best friends. But they said nothing," Mayorov said.

Berezovsky said Monday that he had answered the vast majority of the questions. "The Russians asked me about 200 questions, and I refused to answer about 20 of them, which focused on my private business dealings" and the whereabouts of journalist Yelena Tregubova, Berezovsky said.

Tregubova wrote a 2003 book critical of Putin called "Tales of a Kremlin Digger" and escaped injury when a small bomb went off outside her apartment.

Later in the interview, Mayorov again suggested that financial ties between Litvinenko and Berezovsky could have led to the poisoning, saying some of the theories about the case are interconnected. "This is precisely why Berezovsky was asked questions about his financial dealings with Litvinenko."

Mayorov said all the questions to Berezovsky "involved exclusively the death of Litvinenko."

Mayorov said Berezovsky and Zakayev were questioned simultaneously and that he was present for the questioning of Zakayev.