Page last updated at 19:37 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 20:37 UK

Litvinenko's widow praises Brown

Marina Litvinenko speaks about the allegations

The widow of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko has welcomed Gordon Brown's stance on the extradition of a man to stand trial over her husband's death.

Marina Litvinenko praised the prime minister for "standing firm" on calls for Andrei Lugovoi to be extradited two years after her husband was poisoned.

Mr Brown is thought to have raised the case with new Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at the G8 summit in Japan.

The UK suspects ex-KGB agent Mr Lugovoi of murder but he denies involvement.

Mr Litvinenko, a fierce critic of former Russian President Vladimir Putin who had been granted asylum in the UK and eventually took citizenship, was poisoned in London in 2006.

His widow's comments came after Whitehall sources told the BBC's Newsnight the murder was carried out with the backing of the Russian state.

Mrs Litvinenko told the BBC she welcomed the suggestion MI5 agreed with her version of events.

The investigation has made significant progress and does not possess information that any intelligence service was involved in the crime
Russian Prosecutor General's Office

She said it was a "big surprise" to hear such a "high level" indication.

Mrs Litvinenko, who has outlined her suspicions in a book, added: "Every time we try to said it in our meeting and our book, not Lugovoi himself could kill my husband, somebody was behind him."

Health experts say they believe Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by radioactive matter, believed to be polonium-210.

Production of the substance generally requires sophisticated lab facilities and Mrs Litvinenko said this also suggested that the Russian state could be behind the killing.

'No compromise'

Earlier, in a statement released following the G8 talks, Mrs Litvinenko said she was "proud of being British".

"I am convinced that the harassment of the British Council and British Petroleum in Moscow were devised by the Kremlin to induce Britain to stop pursuing Mr Lugovoi's extradition.

We very strongly believe the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement
Newsnight source

"I was relieved to find out the prime minister stood firm and explained to Mr Medvedev that there can be no compromise on that."

She added: "Britain once again has shown that it would not short-change its principles in the face of bullying and blackmail."

In May 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service formally submitted an extradition request to Moscow for Mr Lugovoi to stand trial in Britain.

That request remains current, but Russia has refused to co-operate saying it would be against its constitution to do so.

On the Litvinenko case a senior security official told Newsnight there were "very strong indications it was a state action."

The BBC has been told Russia's internal security organisation, the FSB, operated under Mr Putin with far more autonomy than the organisations usually entrusted with foreign espionage operations.

Our source said: "We very strongly believe the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement."

Russia maintains there is no evidence its intelligence service were responsible for the death.

In a statement, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, which has also been probing the case, said: "The investigation has made significant progress and does not possess information that any intelligence service was involved in the crime."




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