Berezovsky, Litvinenko involved him in MI6 says Zharko


Moscow : Vyacheslav Zharko, a former Russian security service officer who earlier admitted working for British intelligence, said Saturday murdered Alexander Litvinenko and fugitive Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky introduced him to MI6.

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Last week the Russian espionage agency, Federal Security Service Board (FSB) said the alleged double agent, Zharko, had disclosed the names of four British intelligence officers, and given locations in Europe where meetings had taken place, including information regarding the assignments he had been given.

"This is a long story [of recruitment] and Berezovsky along with the late Litvinenko played the lead roles in it," Zharko said in an interview with popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. "They introduced me to British Secret Intelligence Service agents."

Earlier Saturday the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had completed an inquiry into the ex-security officer's claim on spying for the British intelligence and launched a criminal case on espionage charges.

FSB said it had "enough information, which indicates that between 2003 and 2007 British SIS officers recruited him and later used as an agent for spying to the detriment of the Russian Federation's security."

Zharko said Berezovsky, who was granted political asylum in U.K. in 2003, introduced him to Litvinenko in London in 2002.

"Alexander [Litvinenko] introduced me in turn to a certain Martin Flint, who said he was representing business circles," Zharko said. "Then, I got acquainted with two more people, who offered to have me render them consulting services. They were interested in the political and economic situation in Russia."

The British, he said, paid him 200 euros per month for the information, which, according to him, he gathered from various Internet sources and therefore was not doing anything illegal.

When asked who may be behind the murder of secret service defector Litvinenko, who died of radioactive poisoning November 23, 2006 in London, Zharko said that in his opinion it could be a result Litvinenko's "personal experiments."

"On the whole there was an absolutely negative attitude toward Litvinenko within Berezovsky's circle. Eventually, Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky] moved him away from himself and considerably cut his allowance," Zharko said.

"The British at the same time declined his services. He [Litvinenko] kept telling me that he needed money badly. Possibly, that with the help of [Akhmed] Zakayev and his other Chechen 'friends' he could have got involved in smuggling of radioactive materials, and then – by accident or not – received a lethal dose. This is my personal opinion."

Berezovsky and Chechen emissary Zakayev were both granted political asylum in the U.K. after fleeing Russia, where they are wanted on charges of fraud and complicity in terrorism, respectively.

The Russian Prosecutor's Office has repeatedly approached British authorities with a request that the two men be extradited to their country of origin, but each request has been denied.

Zharko said he spoke last time with Berezovsky after the May 31 news conference given by another former security officer Andrei Lugovoi. He said Berezovsky asked him to meet immediately, but, according to Zharko, he already made up his mind to quit "playing games with him and MI6."

"I realized that my reviews and consulting works were just a stage of drawing me into something more serious," he said. "At one of the meetings I was asked to gather information on agents of Russian special services, which could be later used for their recruitment by Britain. They even wanted to give me a special portable computer for sending information. But I realized that it all leads to pure espionage."

Andrei Lugovoi was accused by the Crown Prosecution Service on May 22 of murdering Litvinenko. Though Litvinenko is thought to have been poisoned with radioactive Polonium-210, no official autopsy report has so far been made available. Lugovoi has vehemently denied the accusations against him claiming they are politically motivated, and in turn accused Litvinenko and Berezovsky of spying for MI6.