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Moscow police detain man trying to sell 34 kilos of mercury

MOSCOW, May 23 (RIA Novosti) - Police have detained a resident of the town of Biysk, in the Siberian Territory of Altai, as he tried to sell 34 kilos (74 pounds) of mercury in Moscow, a spokeswoman for the federal anti-narcotics service said Wednesday.

"The 49-year-old organizer of a network to deliver the dangerous metal was detained after he received payment for the mercury," Maria Lutsenko said. "The confiscated material was worth an estimated one million rubles ($40,000)."

She said the Moscow anti-narcotics service learned in April that several Altai residents were seeking buyers for a significant amount of mercury, adding that the potentially hazardous heavy metal was probably stolen from a factory or storage site in the Altai Territory.

"Following his arrival in the capital, the man and his companions were placed under surveillance. He was extremely suspicious and changed meeting places with the buyer several times while trying to make sure he was not being followed," Lutsenko said. "He was detained when he finally decided to conclude the transaction."

The man was charged with dealing in poisonous materials and faces five years imprisonment if convicted.

Police are still trying to determine the identities of the other members of the ring, as well as the source of the mercury.

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