December 15, 2006 2:09:45 am
The head of an organisation of former Russian spies on Thursday said Jozef Stalin-era policies of Moscow assassinating enemies had ceased, and ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was probably murdered by criminals.
Former KGB agent Valentin Velichko, head of a Moscow-based Russian nationalist foundation called Dignity and Honor, said in an interview that Litvinenko, who died on November 23 from severe radiation poisoning, was a traitor but was not killed by Moscow.
“That was long ago. It belonged to the days of Stalin,” Velichko told Die Welt newspaper. He was referring to Soviet dictator Stalin, who in the 1930s led a campaign of political persecution, repression and executions.
“In those days there was a special department called ‘V’, which handled the liquidation of political opponents,” said Velichko, who is also the head of the Veterans of Foreign Intelligence.
Asked about the assassination of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov, who was killed with a poison dart coated with deadly ricin shot from an umbrella in 1978, decades after Stalin’s death, Velichko said this was probably the last one.
He answered in the negative when asked if some people in his organisation might have wanted to settle scores with Litvinenko, and said that he rather saw the murder as a dispute among criminals.
Velichko also said that the use of polonium 210 to kill Litvinenko was a crude assassination that would not have been used by Russia security services. “Professionals don’t use polonium,” he said.
At the same time, he said Litvinenko had revealed secrets, which “made him a traitor under the law”.
In a statement associates released after his death, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his killing. The Kremlin has denied involvement in the death of the ex-spy.
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