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Litvinenko murder suspect confirms plans to stand for election

RIA Novosti

16/09/2007 16:11 MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - Andrei Lugovoi, a Russian businessman who the U.K. suspects of murdering Alexander Litvinenko, confirmed on Sunday that he would run for parliament as a candidate for an ultranationalist party.

The head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, announced on Saturday that the former KGB officer, who Britain wants to try for the poisoning of ex-security officer Litvinenko last November, would stand as number two party candidate at the December elections to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

Lugovoi told RIA Novosti: "I will take part in the State Duma elections on the LDPR's candidate lists."

If the millionaire businessman, who owns a private security company, becomes a member of parliament, he will receive immunity from prosecution according to Russian law.

Lugovoi also said he would take part in the LDPR's party congress on Monday. He said he would make further comments on his candidacy after the congress.

Russia's refusal to extradite Lugovoi to the U.K. has proved a major source of contention in relations between the countries, and in July sparked a tit-for-tat row involving expulsions of diplomats and visa restrictions.

Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken Kremlin critic, is believed to have died of poisoning from a dose of a highly toxic polonium isotope allegedly dropped into his drink in the bar of a luxury London hotel last November. Lugovoi reportedly met with him at the hotel on the day of his poisoning.

Lugovoi has repeatedly denied the accusations against him, and in a news conference hosted by RIA Novosti and radio station Ekho Moskvy in late August, he insisted that there is not even any proof that Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning, and said the cause of death remains unknown. He also suggested that fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and British intelligence were involved in Litvinenko's murder.

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