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Russian ex-spy may have been poisoned TWICE

The man was allegedly poisoned by a cup of tea laced with polonium-210 in 2006 and publicly accused Vladamir Putin of ordering his killing before he died three weeks later.

Image: ALISTAIR FULLER/AP/PA

AN INQUIRY INTO the radiation poisoning of a former Russian spy opened today with claims that there may have been an earlier assassination bid in the most sensational espionage case since the Cold War.

Alexander Litvinenko was allegedly poisoned by a cup of tea laced with polonium-210 in a London hotel in 2006 and publicly accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering his killing before he died three weeks later.

Russia has rejected the accusations and refused to grant extradition for the two chief suspects named by British police — Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun — over the poisoning of Litvinenko on November 1 that year.

Inquiry lawyer Robin Tam said traces of radiation showed there may have been a previous poisoning when the three met in the offices of a London private security company, Erinys, two weeks earlier on October 16.

“One of the most significant things that the evidence suggests is that Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium not once but twice,” he told the inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice, which was attended by Litvinenko’s widow Marina.

Tam also showed the inquiry diagrams of the Erinys boardroom showing heavy contamination on a section of the table and a chair, as well as on the spout of the teapot from which Litvinenko drank at the Mayfair hotel.

He said the heaviest contamination in the boardroom and the teapot was “off the scale” at in excess of 10,000 counts per second (cps).

Normal background radiation is around 0.5 cps.

- © AFP 2015.

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