Russian investigators to check Berezovsky's involvement in Litvinenko's killing

Russia will examine allegations that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky could have been involved in the poisoning death in London of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, a top law-enforcement official said Friday.

Alexander Bastrykin, newly appointed head of the National Investigation Committee, criticized Britain's Scotland Yard for focusing on one suspect - Andrei Lugovoi - and ignoring other possible leads, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported.

"We have other versions," Bastrykin was quoted as saying. When asked whether Berezovsky could have been involved, he said: "We aren't ruling out such a version."

Berezovsky, an one-time Kremlin insider and a sharp Kremlin critic who fled to Britain in 2000, has dismissed similar previous Russian accusations as an attempt by President Vladimir Putin's government to deflect blame for Litvinenko's death.

Litvinenko died Nov. 23 in a London hospital after ingesting radioactive polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, he accused Putin of being behind his killing.

The poisoning fueled speculation of possible official Russian involvement and further damaged Putin's image in the West, already tarnished by accusations of democratic backsliding and human rights concerns. Kremlin allies have sought to counter that by suggesting the killing was masterminded by Putin's enemies abroad, such as Berezovsky.

Britain last month accused Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB agent-turned-businessman, of killing Litvinenko, and formally requested his extradition. Putin called the request "stupidity," citing a constitutional prohibition on the extradition of Russian citizens.

Russian authorities have tried to turn the tables on Britain by opening their own probe into allegations of British espionage made by Lugovoi, who also said that British secret services and Berezovsky could have had a hand in Litvinenko's death.

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