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Chechen emissary dismisses MI6 spy story

RIA Novosti

09/07/2007 16:53 MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - Chechen separatist envoy Akhmed Zakayev said claims by a former major in the Russian tax police and self-confessed spy, that he cooperated with MI6 are ridiculous, the Kommersant daily quoted him as saying Monday.

Vyacheslav Zharko, who earlier admitted working for British intelligence, said Saturday the murdered defector Alexander Litvinenko and fugitive Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky introduced him to MI6.

"Zharko's statements have been made to lend credence to the theory floated by the Russian authorities alleging that MI6 was involved in Litvinenko's death," Zakayev said.

But he said it was quite possible that Zharko might have met Alexander Litvinenko.

Zakayev also dismissed the theory that Litvinenko and Berezovsky could have been recruited by MI6 because they were high-profile figures, adding that was the style of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which does not care much about its reputation or image.

Last week, the FSB said Zharko had disclosed the names of four British intelligence officers and named locations in Europe where meetings had taken place, including information regarding the assignments he had been given.

"This is a long story [of recruitment] and Berezovsky along with Litvinenko played leading roles in it," Zharko said in an interview with the popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. "They introduced me to British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agents."

Earlier Saturday the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had completed an inquiry into the ex-security officer's claim on spying for British intelligence and launched a criminal case on espionage charges, saying it had "enough information, indicating that between 2003 and 2007 British SIS officers recruited him and later used him as an agent, to the detriment of the Russian Federation's security."

Zharko said Berezovsky, who was granted political asylum in the U.K. in 2003, introduced him to Litvinenko in London in 2002.

When asked who might have been behind the murder of secret service defector Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning November 23, 2006 in London, Zharko said that, in his opinion, it could have been the result of Litvinenko's "personal experiments."

Berezovsky and Chechen emissary Zakayev were both granted political asylum in the U.K. after fleeing Russia, where they are wanted on charges of fraud and complicity in terrorism, respectively. The Russian Prosecutor's Office has repeatedly approached British authorities with a request that the two men be extradited to their country of birth, but each request has been denied.

Andrei Lugovoi was accused by the Crown Prosecution Service May 22 of murdering Litvinenko. Though Litvinenko is thought to have been poisoned with radioactive Polonium-210, no official autopsy report has so far been made available. Lugovoi has vehemently denied the accusations against him claiming they are politically motivated, and in turn accused Litvinenko and Berezovsky of spying for MI6.

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