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Ex-KGB spy: UK tried to recruit me

Story Highlights

• Lugovoi says Britain tried to recruit him to provide intelligence
• Ex-KGB spy suggests UK intelligence could be behind murder
• Lugovoi says murdered spy was working for British intelligence
• Russia will not extradite Lugovoi, charged by Britain with murdering Litvinenko
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Andrei Lugovoi -- the man British authorities accuse of poisoning a former Russian spy in London last year -- told reporters Thursday he wasn't behind the ex-KGB agent's murder, but speculated the British government may have been.

"I don't know who killed him," Lugovoi, a former security service agent turned businessman, said at a Moscow press conference, according to a translation from Russia Today television.

He did, however, speculate on who was behind the poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in November, several weeks after being exposed to toxic levels of polonium-210, naming British intelligence, the Russian mafia and political refugee and Russian businessmen Boris Berezovsky as prime suspects.

"It is difficult to abandon the idea that Litvinenko had become an agent of the British special services who got out of hand and was then eliminated -- if not by the special services themselves, then under their control or their connivance," he said.

"You don't have to be a lawyer to understand that there must be a motive behind such a crime," he said. "Alexander was not my enemy."

Lugovoi said Berezovsky's motive was Litvinenko's possession of "great material" that could expose the underhanded way Berezovsky acquired political refugee status in Britain.

Detailing the scheme, Lugovoi explained "those wishing to get political asylum should publish in Russia certain articles of a political content, an anti-Russian content, criticizing the course of the Russian government."

In addition, Lugovoi also claimed he was approached by the British special forces and asked to gain compromising information on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Attempts were made to openly recruit me as a British intelligence service agent," Lugovoi said. "The Britons in fact suggested that I collect any information that could compromise President Putin and members of his family."

His statements follow the recent announcement by British officials that they have enough evidence to charge Lugovoi with the murder of Litvinenko.

Lugovoi met Litvinenko in London on November 1, 2006, at the bar of the Millennium Hotel, hours before the 43-year-old fell ill.

A fierce critic of Putin, Litvinenko released a deathbed statement blaming Putin for involvement in his poisoning -- an allegation the Kremlin denied.

The case has put pressure on relations between London and Moscow, and the announcement threatened to aggravate the situation further.

On Thursday the British Foreign Office said it was waiting to receive a "formal Russian response" following its refusal last week to extradite Lugovoi to Britain to face trial.

"This is a criminal matter and not an issue about intelligence," the statement said. "A British citizen was killed in London and UK citizens and visitors were put at risk."

'Kremlin campaign'

Berezovsky, who has said openly he wants to fund a revolution coup in Russia, denied he worked for British intelligence and said the Kremlin was using Lugovoi as its mouthpiece, Reuters reported.

"Everything about Mr Lugovoi's words and presentation made it obvious that he is acting on Kremlin instruction," Berezovsky said in a statement.

Speaking by telephone to Ekho Moskvy radio station, Berezovsky said: "This (Lugovoy's) statement makes everything clear, it has become obvious that the whole campaign the Kremlin is staging around Litvinenko's murder is a campaign of state lies."

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor-general's office cited a Russian constitutional ban on handing over Russian citizens to another state, but said Lugovoi could be tried in Russia.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has said the British government expects "full co-operation from the Russian authorities in bringing the perpetrator to face British justice."

Lugovoi and businessman Dmitry Kovtun have told Russian media they were never officially informed about the charges, hearing about them only through the media.

Sharing the platform with Lugovoi, Kovtun on Thursday told reporters his decision to speak to the media was fueled because an "unbiased and comprehensive investigation" is "not happening now" and he wants to get out "the information (the British prosecution) didn't want to take from us."

Both Kovtun and Lugovoi said they went to London with a group of Moscow soccer fans last year and met Litvinenko briefly to discuss business.

Afterward, they attended a football match at the Emirates Stadium, where polonium-210 was later detected.

Radiation was also detected at other locations in the city, prompting several buildings to be closed.

Some British Airways flights were grounded over fears they might be contaminated.

Hundreds of people were tested by health officials for radiation. Seventeen people tested positive, but authorities said the risk to their health was low.

CNN's Max Tkachenko in Moscow contributed to this report

Reuters contributed to this report.



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