Russian transport authorities announce increased radiation checks

Russia's Transport Ministry on Thursday announced increased radiation checks on international flights and at international airports across the country, as investigators searched a British Airways jet grounded in Moscow for traces of radiation.

British authorities found traces of radiation on two British Airways jetliners in London on Wednesday during the search for clues in the poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Investigators were to search the third plane at Moscow's Domodedevo airport as early as Thursday.

The British government announced Thursday that it was also interested in two Russian aircraft, one of which is operated by Transaero and landed at London's Heathrow airport Monday morning. He said investigators were interested in another Russian plane, but did not give details about it.

A spokeswoman for Transaero said no radiation or any other toxic substance had been found on its plane, but it was not immediately possible to confirm this with Britain's Home Office, which is in charge of security, reports AP.

The Russian ministry said it had issued a directive to regional authorities and airports "to increase security for aircraft of international air companies, in particular monitoring the transport of liquids and gels as well as monitoring radiation levels in the cockpit and passengers' cabin."

In Britain, thousands of passengers aboard some 200 British Airways flights were being contacted.

Litvinenko died Nov. 23 in a London hospital more than three weeks after he said he had been poisoned. British health officials have found high levels of the radioactive material polonium-210 in his body, and have begun a screening program for people who visited the same venues as Litvinenko on Nov. 1.

Traces of radiation have been found at six sites visited by the ex-spy.

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