Tape reveals slain journalist probing Putin terrorist link
A tape apparently recorded by murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko a year before he was poisoned has revealed he was digging up links between Vladimir Putin and one of the world's most dangerous terrorists.
An investigation uncovered the audio recording, in which the dissident claims from beyond the grave that Russia's president had a "good relationship" with Semion Mogilevich - a Ukrainian crime boss who was on the FBI's most wanted list and whom Mr Litvinenko believed was selling weapons to al-Qa'ida.
The apparent recording of Mr Litvinenko is published for the first time ahead of a public inquiry into his death, which begins on Monday.
In the tape, made in November 2005 in the same London sushi restaurant where Mr Litvinenko held one of his final meetings, he also connects Russia's foreign intelligence and state security services - the SVR and FSB - with a former KGB agent whom he believed had links to al-Qa'ida.
The same agent may also feature in the public inquiry, with lawyers examining his possible involvement in the spy's death.
And in an early indication of his fears of the Kremlin, Mr Litvinenko discloses in broken English that Russia had threatened him for working with a commission probing alleged Soviet links with Italian politicians. He says Russian special services were "very afraid" of the commission's work.
Mr Litvinenko (43) was a former KGB agent who fled to Britain in 2000.
He was allegedly poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 at a hotel in London in November 2006.
His family and friends have claimed that the Russian state ordered his killing.
Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, both former KGB bodyguards, have been identified as suspects in his murder. However, both deny any involvement and remain in Russia despite attempts by the UK to extradite them to stand trial.
Mr Litvinenko had been providing intelligence to Mario Scaramella, an Italian security expert who was a consultant for the Mitrokhin Commission, a parliamentary body set up in 2002 and chaired by Senator Paolo Guzzanti.
In the recording, Mr Litvinenko claims that Russia had blackmailed him to cease his work with Mr Scaramella by attempting to have his brother Maxim extradited from Italy, where he lived.
"It is after my first contact with Mario Scaramella, Russia special service, Russia embassy asked to Italy police, arrest my brother and extradite to Russia," Mr Litvinenko says. (© Daily Telegraph, London)