- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

LONDON — Britain’s senior law-enforcement official said yesterday that an inquiry into the death of a former KGB agent had expanded overseas, and a U.S.-based friend of the former agent said he had told police the name of the person he thinks orchestrated the poisoning.

Yuri Shvets said he had known the poisoned ex-spy, Alexander Litvinenko, since 2002 and spoke with him on Nov. 23, the day Mr. Litvinenko died from exposure to a rare radioactive element, polonium-210.

“The truth is, we have an act of international terrorism on our hands. I happen to believe I know who is behind the death of my friend Sasha and the reason for his murder,” Mr. Shvets said by telephone from the United States, referring to Mr. Litvinenko by his Russian nickname.

Mr. Shvets, also a former KGB officer, declined to say who he thought was behind Mr. Litvinenko’s death because of concern it could disrupt the investigation. He also declined to offer details on a document that he said he had given to the British officers.

“This is firsthand information, this is not gossip. I gave them the firsthand information that I have,” Mr. Shvets said.

In London, meanwhile, Home Secretary John Reid said the inquiry would go wherever “the police take it.”

“Over the next few days, I think all of these things will widen out a little from the circle just being here in Britain,” Mr. Reid told Britain’s Sky News television.

The British police official said police were expected to travel to Russia in coming days for interviews, including with Andrei Lugovoi. Mr. Lugovoi is another former Russian spy who met with Mr. Litvinenko on Nov. 1, the day Mr. Litvinenko fell ill.

The Sunday Times newspaper quoted Mr. Lugovoi as saying he had also been contaminated with polonium-210, but he did not say whether he had fallen ill. He denied that he and two business associates who accompanied him to the Nov. 1 meeting were involved in Mr. Litvinenko’s death.

“We suspect that someone has been trying to frame us,” the Times quoted Mr. Lugovoi as saying. “Someone passed this stuff onto us … to point the finger at us and distract the police.”

Repeated attempts by the Associated Press to reach Mr. Lugovoi in Moscow through a business associate have been unsuccessful.

Mr. Litvinenko said from his deathbed that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind his poisoning. Mr. Putin has dismissed the accusation as “nonsense.”

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