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No secret department to punish traitors in Russia - KGB veteran

RIA Novosti

15/12/2006 12:26 MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) - There are no longer secret departments in Russia charged with liquidating traitors, a government daily quoted a KGB veteran as saying Friday.

Some Western media have alleged Russian secret services and an intelligence services veterans' association might have been involved in the death of Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko, a former FSB officer and outspoken Kremlin critic with ties to exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died November 23 in a London hospital from a lethal dose of radioactive polonium-210.

Valentin Velichko, the president of Honor and Dignity, said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, that a special department that existed in Soviet dictator Stalin's era to kill defecting secret agents acted only after relevant court judgments had been delivered.

"Now that the death penalty no longer exists in our moratorium-bound country, neither does the department," he said.

"The West is eager to find a Russian fingerprint," Velichko said. "By accusing us of poisoning Litvinenko, it is easier to target the president later, as it is the head of state who stands behind the secret services."

The colonel said neither Litvinenko, who defected from Russia in 2000, nor his contacts, Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi, both businessmen and former security agents who have been hospitalized and diagnosed with radioactive poisoning, have ever been connected in any way with Honor and Dignity.

He said it would have been unreasonable for the secret services, which have at their disposal a wide range of cheap and traceless means of killing, to use polonium-210. He said the dose that killed Litvinenko would have cost some $30 million.

"Why millions? Some secret agents know how to kill a man with a sheet of paper," Velichko said.

As to Litvinenko's death Velichko said: "As a man sows so shall he reap."

He said that lawyers acting for the association are considering filing a libel suit against some Western media outlets.

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