2 more test positive for radiation in spy probe

/ Source: Reuters

Two more people have tested positive for low levels of polonium 210, the radioactive poison that killed former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, British health authorities said on Wednesday.

The tests bring to 12 the number of people in Britain found to have been contaminated by polonium since Litvinenko died on Nov. 23. He accused the Kremlin of assassinating him in a murky spy case which has strained relations between London and Moscow.

Moscow has strongly denied the charge and dismissed Litvinenko, a former member of its FSB security agency who became an exiled dissident, as a low-level figure with no access to intelligence secrets.

The Health Protection Agency said one of the new cases was a member of staff at a central London hotel, the Best Western in Piccadilly, where police had conducted searches after Litvinenko’s death.

The other was a guest who visited the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel on Nov. 1 — the same date and venue where Litvinenko met two Russian contacts hours before he fell ill.

But a Health Protection Agency spokesman could not say whether this was the same person referred to last week by Dutch authorities when they said one of 24 Dutch nationals who stayed at the Millennium between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 had tested positive for polonium. She said she was not aware of the Dutch report.

Only small amounts of radiation
The Health Protection Agency said the 12 people exposed to polonium did not show levels significant enough to result in any short-term illness. Any increased longer-term risk was likely to be very small.

British police are conducting a murder investigation into Litvinenko’s death but have declined to comment on their findings.