Litvinenko's death mystery deepens as his associate lapses into coma

Five weeks after Alexander Litvinenko suddenly fell ill at the hands of an unknown poisoner, the riddle of his murder and the uneasy diplomatic stand-off that surrounds it grew ever more knotted in intrigue and tragedy.

As the former Russian spy's radioactive body was laid to rest in a north London cemetery, the authorities in Moscow announced they were investigating the attempted murder of one of his business associates.

Dmitry Kovtun, one of two Russian businessmen who met Mr Litvinenko on several occasions in London prior to his assassination, was reported to be in a coma in a Moscow hospital last night after testing positive for polonium-210.

In a day of further twists, it was revealed that seven workers at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, where the men met on 1 November, had also tested positive for the radioactive isotope, the Independent reports.

The discovery of significant levels of contamination last night moved the hotel centre stage in the effort to pinpoint where and when Mr Litvinenko and Mr Kovtun were contaminated.

The Interfax news agency said it had been told by unnamed sources that doctors treating Mr Kovtun, 40, were describing his condition as "critical".

In a prepared statement, Russian prosecutors said they had determined that Litvinenko "died as a result of radioactive nuclide poisoning, and Kovtun, who met Litvinenko in October 2006, developed the same kind of disease also associated with radioactive nuclide poisoning."

The statement by Russian prosecutors did not mention the Nov. 1 meeting, though Kovtun and Lugovoi gave a radio interview in Moscow on Nov. 24 in which they confirmed they met Litvinenko on Nov. 1 at the Millennium Hotel in London, reports.

As Previously reported the body of the former officer of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB), Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London over polonium-210 poisoning on November was delivered to his relatives and was buried according to Muslim tradition.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov