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    Relations with Litvinenko strictly business - key witness

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    A key witness in the Alexander Litvinenko murder investigation said Tuesday that his relations with the former Russian security service defector were strictly business-like.

    MOSCOW, December 19 (RIA Novosti) - A key witness in the Alexander Litvinenko murder investigation said Tuesday that his relations with the former Russian security service defector were strictly business-like.

    Andrei Lugovoi, a former security agent and a businessman, said in an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia that he had known Litvinenko for about 10 years, but that their acquaintance was only formal.

    He said their relationship became business-like after Litvinenko solicited his help as a mediator in talks with British military and security companies interested in expanding their businesses in Russia.

    Lugovoi, who runs a security company in Russia, said: "He [Litvinenko] was only a mediator. He said he was not interested in anything, asking only for his cut if a contract was signed."

    Litvinenko, a Federal Security Service defector and outspoken Kremlin critic with ties to exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died November 23 in a London hospital from a lethal dose of radioactive polonium-210.

    Lugovoi said that Litvinenko had good contacts with two security companies in Britain, which, according to Western media reports, are Erinys International and RISC Management, and had been helping to facilitate talks since December 2005.

    "I was going to pay Litvinenko and say 'good-bye'," Lugovoi said.

    He added that Litvinenko had serious financial problems and badly needed money, as his allowances had been reduced three-fold over the summer.

    "He even named the figure, which was 1,500 pounds sterling [about $3,000]," Lugovoi said. "This is London, where even a handyman gets 2,000. I can say definitely the money issue interested him greatly and determined his actions."

    Lugovoi and another witness, Dmitry Kovtun, also a businessman and former security agent, met with Litvinenko around the time he fell ill and have already been questioned by Russian and British investigators probing the Litvinenko case.

    Both have denied any involvement in Litvinenko's death.

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