Ex-KGB suspect seeks election

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The Independent Online

The sole suspect in the radiation poisoning of Kremlin foe Alexander Litvinenko is to run for parliament on the ticket of a pro-Kremlin ultranationalist party.

The former KGB officer, Andrei Lugovoi, who met Litvinenko at a London hotel bar hours before he fell ill, told reporters he had had no desire to go into politics but changed his mind because of the British accusations against him.

Lugovoi, a Moscow businessman who runs a private security agency, said yesterday that he would be No. 2 on the list of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party in December's parliamentary elections.

Britain has identified Lugovoi as the main suspect in the murder of Litvinenko and demanded his extradition. Russia has rejected the demand, saying its constitution forbids it.

Lugovoi has dismissed the British accusations and accused British authorities of hurting his business interests.

"I have been involved in politics over the past three months against my wishes," Lugovoi told Russia Today. "I was a businessman, but no longer, thanks to the disgusting policy of British prosecutors which led to this political hysteria. With the situation being highly politicized by British opponents, I find myself in the midst of a political wave of interest in me."

Zhirinovsky, a flamboyant politician who heeds the Kremlin's orders, said his party congress would confirm Lugovoi's position on the party list today. He dismissed British charges against Lugovoi as "an attempt to organize provocations against our citizens," the Interfax news agency reported.

Litvinenko, a former KGB officer with asylum in Britain, died on 23 November in a London hospital after ingesting radioactive polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, he accused President Vladimir Putin of being behind his killing — charges the Kremlin has fiercely denied.

Tensions over the Litvinenko case have badly hurt the bilateral ties, and the two nations recently have announced tit-for tat diplomat expulsions.