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Russia's FSB probes MI6 activities based on Lugovoi claims

RIA Novosti

15/06/2007 17:54 (Recasts headline, lead, adds quote in para 4)

MOSCOW, June 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has launched an investigation into British intelligence activities in Russia after statements made by businessman Andrei Lugovoi against a former FSB officer and tycoon, the service said Friday.

Lugovoi, accused in the United Kingdom of murdering Alexander Litvinenko, told reporters in late May that the ex-FSB officer and his former employer, Boris Berezovsky, had been recruited by Britain's intelligence service, known as MI6.

The FSB earlier announced it had opened a criminal case on espionage charges following Lugovoi's statements but without revealing details of the case.

"A criminal case on espionage charges has been opened after statements made by Russian businessman Lugovoi, and additional information on the activities of British intelligence in Russia," the spokesman said, commenting on the previous announcement.

The U.K. applied for Lugovoi's extradition in May to face charges of murdering Litvinenko, but Russian prosecutors have refused to extradite him, stating that handing over Russian nationals is against the country's Constitution.

Litvinenko received British citizenship shortly before his death from radioactive poisoning in November 2006. In a deathbed note reportedly dictated to a friend, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating his poisoning, an allegation the Kremlin dismissed as ridiculous.

Lugovoi, who met with Litvinenko not long before his death, said at a news conference on May 31 that British intelligence may have been involved in the murder and had been looking for information to discredit Putin.

Following the FSB announcement Friday, Lugovoi said he would actively cooperate with investigators on the espionage probe.

"As a law-abiding citizen, I am closely cooperating with the Russian investigators, including on issues related to protecting Russia's national security," he told reporters in Moscow, while refusing to comment on the new espionage case.

Moscow has also been fruitlessly seeking the extradition of fugitive tycoon Berezovsky on fraud charges and for trying to instigate a coup from Britain, where he has been based since 2001 and gained citizenship in 2003.

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