MOSCOW, December 5 (RIA Novosti) - Scotland Yard detectives, currently in Russia as part of an investigation into the death of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London, will not be allowed to interview a jailed fellow security officer, a penal service spokesman said Tuesday.
Defense lawyers for Mikhail Trepashkin, who was found guilty in 2004 of divulging state secrets and is now serving a four-year sentence, said Monday he is prepared to give evidence in the high-profile case to the British security services.
"Trepashkin is serving a sentence for treason, therefore we cannot allow him to contact foreign security services," the Federal Penitentiary Service spokesman, Alexander Sidorov, said.
However, Trepashkin's defense lawyer, Yelena Liptser, told journalists that she is disappointed with the decision, as it hinders the investigation, and plans to visit Nizhny Tagil in the Sverdlovsk Region, where Trepashkin is serving his term at penal colony No. 13.
"Russian authorities have said they are willing to help the investigation into such a high-profile case," she said. "Barring Scotland Yard representatives from interviewing Trepashkin could be seen as an effort to hide the truth."
Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Moscow Monday to interview several people who met with Litvinenko around the time of his alleged poisoning in early November, including businessman and former KGB and FSB colleague Andrei Lugovoi, and businessmen Dmitry Kovtun and Vyacheslav Sokolenko. The names of two other witnesses have not been disclosed.
Trepashkin earlier said in a letter that he warned Litvinenko, a former spy who died of radiation poisoning in a London hospital November 23, of a planned attempt on his life to avenge his defection in 2000.
The death of Litvinenko, 43, a fierce critic of the Kremlin, has stirred heated media debate and tarnished Russia's international image, as the former spy purportedly left a deathbed message implicating President Vladimir Putin in his poisoning.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations, also casting doubt over the authenticity of the note. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday the scandal fanned by the media in the U.K. has damaged Russian-British relations.