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    The condition of a Russian spy defector allegedly poisoned three weeks ago in London deteriorated overnight, doctors in a London hospital said Thursday.

    (Recasts, adds paragraphs 6-9, 11, 12)

    LONDON, November 23 (RIA Novosti) - The condition of a Russian spy defector allegedly poisoned three weeks ago in London deteriorated overnight, doctors in a London hospital said Thursday.

    Alexander Litvinenko, 43, a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), and its predecessor the KGB, and a close associate of Russia's fugitive oligarch Boris Berezovsky, has been transferred to intensive care at the University College London Hospital after reportedly suffering heart failure last night.

    "There has been a major deterioration in Mr. Litvinenko's condition overnight," the hospital said in a statement. "He is now in a very serious condition and remains in intensive care."

    Litvinenko - a strong critic of the Russian government, who defected in 2000 and has recently received British citizenship - was admitted to a London hospital three weeks ago and diagnosed with acute poisoning, initially believed to have been caused by a potentially deadly concentration in his blood of thallium, a chemical used in rat poison and insecticides.

    "Mr. Litvinenko is being treated and monitored in the intensive care unit of University College Hospital so he can receive cardiac monitoring and specialist support in areas such as nutrition and pain relief," the statement said. "He can also be more effectively isolated to protect him against infection, following the damage to his immune system."

    Dr. Geoff Bellingan of the hospital said thallium was definitely not the reason of Litvinenko's critical condition.

    "We are now convinced that the cause of Mr Litvinenko's condition was not a heavy metal such as thallium. Radiation poisoning is also unlikely," he said. "Despite extensive tests, we are still unclear as to the cause of his condition."

    Bellingan also denied media reports saying that X-ray tests had purportedly detected three objects in Litvinenko's body.

    "We are now convinced that shadowing on the X-ray was caused, as might be expected, by Prussian Blue - a non-toxic therapeutic agent which was administered as part of his treatment," he said.

    Doctors said Litvinenko had been unable to eat for 18 days. His bone marrow was badly damaged, depriving his body of white blood cells.

    Britain's Scotland Yard is investigating the alleged poisoning.

    In an interview with The Sunday Times newspaper, Litvinenko has said he believed the poisoning was a murder plot to avenge his defection. Russia's foreign intelligence has denied any involvement in the case.

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