On the day that former-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was laid to rest, the investigation into his poisoning widened again, swerving between Britain and Russia.
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London's Highgate Cemetery.
The Russian Probe
Russian prosecutors opened their own investigation into the former KGB agent's poisoning death, and authorities said a key figure was ill with symptoms related to polonium-210, the highly radioactive substance that killed Litvinenko.
The opening of a criminal case in Moscow would allow suspects in the Litvinenko case to be prosecuted in Russia. Officials there previously have said that Russia would not allow the extradition of any suspects in the death.
The Russian Prosecutor General's office also said it had opened a criminal investigation into the attempted killing of Dmitry Kovtun, a former agent who met Litvinenko in the Millennium Hotel on Nov. 1, hours before Litvinenko became fatally ill.
Russian officials said Kovtun, has developed an illness connected with polonium-210.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Kovtun was in critical condition in a coma, but a source close to Kovtun told CBS News that he is in a "normal physical state" and have been receiving only out-patient treatment by health workers.
A lawyer connected to the case, Andrei Romashov, also told the Associated Press that the report about Kovtun being in a coma was not true.
Kovtun was questioned earlier this week by Russian investigators and Scotland Yard detectives in Moscow, although it was not immediately clear if he was considered a witness or as a potential suspect.
A scheduled interview with former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi, who was with Kovtun at the Millennium Hotel in London, was postponed, his lawyer told The Associated Press. Lugovoi said he would answer all the British investigators' questions, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Kovtun and Lugovoi have told reporters in Moscow that someone is trying to frame them in Litvinenko's death.
Lugovoi was at one point a bodyguard for former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who also fell sick recently in Ireland with an illness that Russian doctors have been unable to diagnose. On Thursday, Britain's Financial Times and the Russian newspaper Vedomosti published a letter written by Gaidar with the headline: "I was poisoned and Russia's political enemies were surely behind it."
"Most likely ... some obvious or hidden adversaries of the Russian authorities stand behind the scenes of this event, those who are interested in further radical deterioration of relations between Russia and the West," Gaidar wrote in the letter.
From his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed his fate on Russian President Vladimir Putin — a charge that Kremlin officials have called "nonsense." Traces of polonium-210 were found in Litvinenko's body after his Nov. 23 death.
More Radiation Found
Britain's Health Protection Agency said seven workers at the Millennium Hotel, where Litvinenko met two Russians on the day he fell ill, have tested positive for "low levels" of polonium.
The agency said the employees were working in the hotel's Pine Bar and that there was no risk to their health in the short-term and little danger for the general public.
Scotland Yard on Wednesday said it was investigating his death as a homicide, and traces of radiation have been found at more than a dozen sites in Britain and on jetliners that flew between London and Moscow.
Faint levels of polonium-210 had been found at two locations at London's Emirates Stadium, where Lugovoi and Kovtun attended a soccer game Nov. 1, officials said Wednesday.
The radiation was "barely detectable" and posed no public health risk, government health agency spokeswoman Katherine Lewis said.
Traces also were found at the British Embassy in Moscow, the Foreign Office said. Officials said the level was low and posed no risk to health.
Litvinenko was laid to rest in a rain-swept funeral at London's Highgate Cemetery attended by a Russian tycoon, a Chechen rebel leader and other exiled Kremlin critics. Self-exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky, Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev and some 50 mourners consoled Litvinenko's widow, Marina, and 12-year-old son, Anatoly, at the funeral. A single white rose was placed on his rain-splattered dark oak casket.
Lord John Rea, director of the Save Chechnya campaign, held up a picture of crusading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whose murder Litvinenko was investigating at the time of his fatal poisoning. Litvinenko, who criticized Putin's policies in Chechnya, reportedly had converted to Islam before his death, and some of the mourners were dressed in traditional Muslim robes. They left red flowers and an orange and yellow wreath at the stone gate of the famous cemetery where communist revolutionary Karl Marx is buried.
Earlier Thursday, Zakayev and Litvinenko's father, Walter, joined hundreds of Muslims who had gathered at London's Regent's Park Mosque for regular daily prayer to attend a memorial service, where the imam recited a funeral prayer.
"The imam said a special passage for him from the Quran," said Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of Britain's Muslim parliament.
Walter Litvinenko and Zakayev both insisted the former spy had converted to Islam on his deathbed, although some friends disputed the claim — saying he had merely expressed empathy with Chechen Muslims. Siddiqui said the mosque had been told Litvinenko converted to Islam 10 days before he was admitted to a hospital last month.
Vladimir Bukovsky, a friend and fellow Putin critic, said Litvinenko had asked that his body eventually be moved to Chechnya. The region in southern Russia is mostly Muslim and plagued by rebel attacks as well as violence blamed on federal troops and forces of the Moscow-backed Chechen government.
"On his deathbed, he asked to be buried when the war is over in Chechen soil," Bukovsky said. "He was a fierce defender of Chechnya and critic of the Kremlin."