British police arrived in Moscow to find the roots of Litvinenko’s death

A team of British police investigators arrived in Moscow on Monday to begin questioning people about the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who had recently become a British citizen, in a case that is straining relations between the two governments.

Although Russian officials have pledged to cooperate in the inquiry, their irritation over the case showed through in official comments. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Monday against "politicizing this issue" and "speculations on this subject." The Interfax news agency also quoted him as saying, "This is, of course, harming our relations."

In Russia, a jailed former intelligence officer made a plea Monday through his lawyers for British investigators to talk to him. Mikhail Trepashkin, who used to work in the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said an FSB officer had told him that Litvinenko was being targeted and "won't escape Trotsky's ice pick," a reference to the 1940 murder of Bolshevik figure Leon Trotsky by a Soviet agent in Mexico City, the Washington Post reports.

Security sources have told The Times that the FSB orchestrated a “highly sophisticated plot” and was likely to have used some of its former agents to carry out the operation on the streets of London.

“We know how the FSB operates abroad and, based on the circumstances behind the death of Mr Litvinenko, the FSB has to be the prime suspect,” a source said.

The involvement of a former FSB officer made it easier to lure Litvinenko to meetings at various locations and to distance its bosses in the Kremlin from being directly implicated in the plot.

Intelligence officials say that only officials such as FSB agents would have been able to obtain sufficent amounts of polonium-210, the radioactive substance used to fatally poison Litvinenko only weeks after he was given British citizenship, says.

Even seminal spy novelist John le Carré would have been hard put to craft such an inscrutable web of shadowy figures and murky alliances.

As Scotland Yard expands to Moscow its investigation of ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko's poisoning, the "whodunit" theories now implicate just about every possible player:

- Enemies - or friends - of President Vladimir Putin

- Mr. Putin himself

- Russia 's secret services

- The St. Petersburg mafia

- Mr. Litvinenko's friend, Boris Berezovsky, and even Litvinenko himself.

But another theory gathering momentum in Russia is that Litvinenko's highly public demise - taken with the October murder of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya - are byproducts of intense jockeying for power ahead of Putin's departure in 2008, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov