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SPY POISON TRAIL LEADS TO MOSCOW; EXCLUSIVE Ex-KGB men 'on contaminated jets'.

Byline: By JEFF EDWARDS Chief Crime Correspondent

DETECTIVES investigating the poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko are planning to fly to Moscow to question two ex-KGB agents.

They believe the men were connected with the radioactive contamination on two British Airways jets that flew between London and Moscow during the past two months.

A third BA jet at Heathrow has been cleared and a fourth is being flown back to London from Moscow today for testing.

Two Russian aircraft will also be tested for traces of the nuclear material polonium 210.

The poison, which was used to kill Mr Litvinenko in London, was found on seats of two BA Boeing 767 jets at Heathrow.

Thirty three thousand passengers have used the aircraft on flights between Britain and the rest of Europe in the past six weeks and may have been in contact with radioactive traces.

They include Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and the 2012 Games chairman Seb Coe. Scotland Yard want ex-KGB agents Dimitri Kovron and Andre Lugovoi checked for radioactive contamination and have also been talking to Moscow police through Interpol.

There was a dramatic twist in the saga last night when aides of former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who was taken seriously ill in Ireland, claimed he had been poisoned.

Mr Gaidar has returned to Moscow where a source said: "Doctors don't see a natural reason for the poisoning."

Mr Litvinenko, who was given asylum in England in 2000, met Kovron and Lugovoi at the Millennium Hotel in London on November 1. The two former agents stayed there after arriving from Moscow the day before. They flew back to Russia two days later. Checks by police at the hotel have found traces of polonium in the rooms the two men used and on a teacup Mr Litvinenko is thought to have drunk from.

Yesterday, diplomatic moves were being made to the Russian Embassy in London and through the British Embassy in Moscow to arrange for detectives to fly out to interview the men.

An inquest into the death of Mr Litvinenko was opened in London yesterday.

Coroner Dr Andrew Reid was told he was suffering leukaemia when he died. A postmortem will be carried out today.

Dr Reid said: "It appears he was killed by... polonium 210," adding that the source was "other than a naturally-occurring one".

In the Commons yesterday Home Secretary John Reid repeated that the risk to the public from radioactive contamination was low.

Special Branch and M15 think the polonium was smuggled in from Moscow, possibly under the cover of a diplomatic bag which, under international law, cannot be searched by customs officers or police.

j.edwards@mirror.co.uk

THE NUKE PROBE FLIGHTS

IF you travelled on British Airways to these destinations between these dates, your flight may be one of those affected by the radiation probe.

BA codeshares on some routes with other airlines. This means customers may fly on one of the partner airlines' aircraft. These are shown in brackets.

Heathrow to Moscow Oct 25 - Nov 29

Moscow to Heathrow Oct 25 - Nov 28

Heathrow to Barcelona (Iberia) Nov 4 - Nov 26

Barcelona to Heathrow Nov 4 - Nov 26

Heathrow to Dusseldorf (Cathay Pacific/Qantas) Oct 30 - Nov 27

Dusseldorf to Heathrow Oct 30 - Nov 27

Heathrow to Athens Oct 30 - Nov 28

Athens to Heathrow Oct 30 - Nov 28

Heathrow to Larnaca (American Airlines) Oct 29 - Nov 26

Larnaca to Heathrow (American Airlines) Oct 29 - Nov 26

Heathrow to Stockholm (Finnair/American Airlines/Qantas) Nov 3 - Nov 26

Stockholm to Heathrow (American Airlines/Finnair/ Qantas/ Cathay Pacific) Nov 4 - Nov 26

Heathrow to Warsaw (diverted to Vienna) (American Airlines/ Qantas) Nov 28

Warsaw to Heathrow (American Airlines/Iberia) Nov 28

Heathrow to Frankfurt Oct 26 - Nov 22

Frankfurt to Heathrow (American Airlines/Qantas) Oct 27 - Nov 23

Heathrow to Istanbul (American Airlines) Oct 27 - Nov 23

Istanbul to Heathrow Oct 27 Nov 23

Heathrow to Madrid (Iberia) Nov 26

Madrid to Heathrow BA (Iberia) Nov 26

FOR FULL DETAILS, GO TO WWW.MIRROR.CO.UK

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:691
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