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Ex-Russian Spy Poisoned In London
A former Russian security agent said to have been poisoned in London continued his fight for life in hospital today.
Alexander Litvinenko may have only a 50% chance of surviving the next four weeks, according to friends.
Meanwhile an Italian professor who met him at a Japanese restaurant in London shortly before he fell ill has gone into hiding after being interviewed by British intelligence officials in Rome.
Mr Litvinenko, a former colonel in the FSB – successor to the KGB – was reportedly taken ill on November 1 while investigating the murder of dissident Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The 44-year-old is thought to have been poisoned following a secret meeting with the academic, Mario Scaramella, at a sushi bar in Piccadilly.
Mr Litvinenko had reportedly received documents which claimed to name her killers.
He is said to have been poisoned with thallium, a highly-toxic, colourless and odourless chemical once used in rat and ant killer.
Alex Goldfarb, who brought him to Britain six years ago and has been visiting him in hospital, said he had been warned that his friend’s chances of survival were only 50/50.
But he sounded a more hopeful note leaving University College Hospital last night, saying: “Alexander is a very, very strong man and we all hope that he will get through this.”
He managed to speak to him for only a few minutes yesterday because Mr Litvinenko was talking to police for a third day.
Mr Goldfarb said today that he believed Mr Litvinenko had been targeted by the Russian regime.
“Of course we do not have any direct evidence other than he met some people during that day,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“He actually had a couple of meetings where he had drinks and this poison could be sprinkled there.
Challenged as to Moscow’s involvement in the apparent attempted killing, Mr Goldfarb went on: “What else do we need? The suspected killers have a record of similar murders. The only difference is it’s here and not there.
“It’s very difficult to imagine the President’s ordered the killing, it’s true, and nobody’s saying that Putin personally ordered it, though it’s very likely.”
Mr Goldfarb said Mr Litvinenko had been treated first at Barnet Hospital in north London, but was moved to UCH when his condition worsened.
“He has potential for heart failure, and his immune system is knocked out, making him very susceptible to infection.”
The allegations that Mr Litvinenko was the victim of an attack by the Russian regime evoke echoes of Cold War incidents such as the assassination of Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian dissident murdered in London with a poison-tipped umbrella in 1978.