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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 13:38 GMT
Minister speaks out on spy death
Alexander Litvinenko
Mr Litvinenko was a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin
A foreign office minister has given his reaction to the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Kim Howells said UK citizens should have the right to walk the streets "without fear of being murdered".

But he refused to "speculate" on who may be behind the death, which has been linked to radioactive polonium-210.

Mr Litvinenko's friends suggest the Russian government was involved but the Kremlin has denied this.

Mr Howells said ministers took a "dim view" of any killings in the UK. Police are treating the death as suspicious.

Radiation traces

Traces of radioactive polonium-210 were discovered in the body of Mr Litvinenko, a former KGB colonel who died in London last week.

His friends have said they suspect Russian top-level involvement in the death because of his criticisms of the country's government.

But the Kremlin has repeatedly described these allegations as "sheer nonsense".

Mr Howells told MPs: "Last week has seen the death of Mr Alexander Litvinenko, now being treated by the police as a suspicious death.

"I am sure the House would not expect me to speculate, given the ongoing police investigation into the case - although I accept the point that no matter where people have come from to this country they have the right to expect to be able to walk the streets without fear of being murdered.

"I would reiterate what I have said previously that this government takes a very dim view of anyone murdering citizens on the streets of Britain, regardless of where they come from or indeed where their murderers might come from."

In a statement dictated before he died at University College Hospital last Thursday, Mr Litvinenko accused Mr Putin of involvement in his death.

Home Secretary John Reid told the Commons on Monday that Russian authorities had been asked to provide "all necessary cooperation" with the investigation.

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