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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 November 2006, 16:45 GMT
Russian mystery ignites message boards
Alexander Litvinenko
There is heated speculation about who might have killed the ex-spy
More than 2,000 e-mails have been sent to the BBC's Have Your Say message board on the murky circumstances surrounding Alexander Litvinenko's death.

The poisoning of the ex-spy has fired the imaginations of e-mailers from the UK, US and Western Europe - and the anger of many Russians.

"What a strange affair. It's almost as if whoever did it wanted it to appear exotic and foreign," writes Rob Brownell from Colchester.

For many such readers, the finger of blame is pointing directly at the Kremlin and the Russian security service (FSB).

Russian ire

But such speculation has raised the ire of Russian contributors to Have Your Say.

"Russia is no longer a wild country and we don't need to kill anyone, especially the 'enemies' of this country," says Nora from St. Petersburg.

I was really puzzled at the way the British media covered this and at how people have reacted.
Larissa Sazolonova
Many see an anti-Russian agenda in the reporting of the affair and ignorance on the part of message board posters from around the world. So they have flocked to the forums to launch their corrective.

Ivan Obzherin in Russia is eager to point out what he sees as a cruel irony of the situation.

" People accusing someone else without proof, trusting in everything that is written in newspapers - isn't that from Russian history, from the times of Stalin? Oh, no! That now happens in modern Western countries. I was very surprised to see that..."

Larissa Sazolonova wanted to talk at greater length about her comments on the Have Your Say message board.

"I was really puzzled at the way the British media covered this and at how people have reacted.

"I read message board comments and it looks as if people really believe that Putin personally sent some evil agent to poison the guy!

'What reason?'

What perplexes most of the Russian contributors is why people believe the Russian regime would want Alexander Litvinenko dead. They believe he was simply not important enough.

"Believe me, high Russian politicians, especially Vladimir Putin, have more important things to do than chase ex-KGB agents around the world," writes Marco from Moscow.

Why did it take so long to establish that Mr Litvinenko was poisoned with a radioactive substance?
Amanda, London

Others say that nobody in the Russian establishment would carry out an act so certain to tarnish its reputation.

"What reason could they have? For me it is quite obvious that the death of Litvinenko has no immediate benefit for the Russian government," said Alexander Korotkevich, a scientific researcher from Moscow.

"A lot of people are using the old stereotypes of the almighty KGB and the ideology of the Cold War. The Russian government may not be good people, but they are pragmatic.

"For them, Litvinenko was a paper tiger."

These online dissenters do have support from elsewhere. The most recommended comment on the Have Your Say debate is from Harry in Farnham in the UK.

He asks: "Is the media trying to stir up animosity towards Russia in the same way that it did during the cold war?"

Russian critics
Vladimir Putin
Many Russians are surprised that Putin reacted to the death

But not all the Russians commenting on the message boards take on this perspective.

"Having seen Russia become more and more an FSB state, I agree that Kremlin (itself an FSB organisation) is most probably behind his death," writes Dmitry from Moscow.

The BBC Russian language message boards also reflect a diversity of opinion. BBCRussian.com says that the Litvinenko debate has attracted hundreds of messages with no one prevailing attitude.

Some contributors believe Moscow may be behind the death, others deplore the accusations levelled at Moscow, and others point the finger at a wide range of possible culprits.

"I'm very sorry for those killed, but I've got questions. Who is going to benefit from this?" Nikolai writes.

"The silliest thing is that the English and Americans are paying their media to publish false information about Russia," says one reader.

And a note of warning is sounded by Junker in St. Petersburg.

"You need to search for the person who ordered the killing much closer to home, rather than in Moscow."

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