The Dominion Post

Litvinenko was working for MI6, his widow tells inquiry

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ALEXANDER LITVINENKO was revealing the names of Russian sleeper agents in Britain to MI6 in the months before he died, the inquiry into his death heard.

He was paid at least £72,000 (NZ$148,000) by his MI6 handlers between being granted political asylum and his death in London in 2006, it was revealed.

Bank statements showed that Litvinenko received £2000 a month for ‘‘consulting’’ services and also had money from Spain’s intelligen­ce agencies.

His former boss in a secretive Russian security unit, Alexander Gusak, has claimed that Litvinenko was revealing the names of deep-cover agents, the inquiry in the High Court at London heard.

His widow, Marina, confirmed at the hearing yesterday that he was working for MI6 but she did not know the nature of his work.

The inquiry, which has heard that Litvinenko was poisoned by the radioactiv­e isotope polonium21­0 on the orders of the Kremlin in November 2006, was told that the Litvinenko family had fled Russia in 2000 in fear of their lives.

Litvinenko had been suspended by Russia’s FSB intelligen­ce agency in the late 1990s after denouncing its ‘‘dirty business’’.

His widow told the inquiry that her husband had been asked by the FSB to carry out a kidnapping and asked if he would assassinat­e Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

Litvinenko said that her husband had then arranged a meeting with the newly appointed head of the FSB, Vladimir Putin, but it had ‘‘not gone well’’. She said her husband ‘‘did not believe in his [Putin’s] profession­al skills’’.

Her husband had told her that while Putin was deputy mayor of St Petersburg he was thought to be ‘‘involved in some crime connection­s’’. After the meeting, Litvinenko was charged with various offences by the Russian state.

He escaped via Turkey and Georgia and arrived in Britain where he successful­ly claimed political asylum for himself, his wife and their son, Anatoly.

Litvinenko said that her husband, whom she called Sasha, told her that he had been warned he would be killed. She said he told her that ‘‘if they arrested me I would never be allowed out of prison; we [Marina and Anatoly] would be targeted’’.

In either 2003 or 2004 Litvinenko began working for MI6, the inquiry heard. He was also being paid by Berezovsky, in part, to write books critical of the Russian regime.

His widow said the family had been loving life in Britain. ‘‘Sasha was very proud to be British. He was flying the English flag on his balcony during the 2006 World Cup. I was very happy having my happy family in London and seeing a future for us,’’ she said.

In July 2006 he wrote a newspaper article claiming that Putin was a paedophile after a peculiar picture was published of him kissing the stomach of a small boy.

Litvinenko claimed that while Putin was an intelligen­ce agent, his bosses learned about his paedophili­a and stalled his career.

Four months after the article, Litvinenko was dead. The two Russians suspected of killing him have refused to have any involvemen­t with the inquiry.

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