Dying Russian Ex-Spy Implicated Putin

LONDON, UK -- A former Russian spy who died in an apparent poisoning signed a statement in the waning hours of his life blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and accusing him of having "no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value," friends said Friday.

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko's last statement, before his death: "The bastards got me, but they won't get everybody."

Putin's government strongly denied involvement, calling the allegation "nothing but nonsense."

Alexander Litvinenko's statement [see full text at end of story], read to reporters outside the hospital where he died late Thursday, addressed the Russian leader directly.

"You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women," Litvinenko said in a statement read by his friend Alex Goldfarb.

"You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life."

Goldfarb said Litvinenko had dictated the statement before he lost consciousness on Tuesday, and signed it in the presence of his wife, Marina.

"It's so silly and unbelievable that it's not worth comment," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Helsinki, Finland, where Putin is attending a summit with European Union leaders.

"Now the case will be investigated by relevant British services and we hope that those who are standing behind this case will be brought to justice," he added.

Litvinenko, a former KGB agent and critic of the Russian government, suffered heart failure late Thursday after days in intensive care, London's University College Hospital said. Doctors said the cause of his illness remained a mystery.

Friends said Litvinenko had been on a quest to uncover corruption in Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, and unmask the killers of another trenchant critic of the Putin's government, the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

"He was completely convinced it was the FSB. There was no doubt in his mind who it was," Andrei Nekrasov told The Associated Press.

Nekrasov, who spoke to Litvinenko just before he lost consciousness, said Litvinenko had told him: "The bastards got me, but they won't get everybody."

Litvinenko told police that he believed he had been poisoned on Nov. 1, while investigating the slaying of Politkovskaya. His hair fell out, his throat swelled and his immune and nervous systems were severely damaged.

Doctors treating him said they could not explain his rapid decline, and they discounted earlier theories that the 43-year-old father of three had been poisoned with the toxic metal thallium or a radioactive substance.

Dr. Geoff Bellingan, University College Hospital's director of critical care, acknowledged he had no clue as to the cause of death.

London's Metropolitan Police said anti-terrorist officers were investigating the matter as "an unexplained death."

"It was an excruciating death and he was taking it as a real man," Litvinenko's father, Walter, said Friday.

"This regime is a mortal danger to the world," he added, his voice choked with emotion.

Nekrasov said the former spy had begun to lose consciousness on Tuesday.

"It was a darkened room, and he would open his eyes now and again. We were encouraging him, telling him that he would survive," Nekrasov said.

"It was so heart-rending. His son was just in a state of shock. He didn't know what to make of it. The family just huddled in a corner of the hospital _ it was terrible to look at."

Nekrasov said Litvinenko believed he had been targeted by the Kremlin because he had threatened to uncover embarrassing facts.

"He had a mission to uncover what he felt were crimes his former colleagues had committed," Nekrasov said.

Litvinenko worked for the KGB and its successor, the FSB. In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering him to kill tycoon Boris Berezovsky and spent nine months in jail from 1999 on charges of abuse of office. He was later acquitted and in 2000 sought asylum in Britain, where Berezovsky is now also living in exile.

On the day he first felt ill, Litvinenko said he had two meetings, the first with an unnamed Russian and Andrei Lugovoy, an-KGB colleague and bodyguard to former Russian Prime Minster Yegor Gaidar.

Later, he dined with Italian security expert Mario Scaramella to discuss the October murder of Politkovskaya.

Scaramella said he showed Litvinenko an e-mail he received from a source naming Politkovskaya's killers, and naming other targets including Litvinenko and himself.

Source: AP

Text of statement by Alexander Litvinenko

I would like to thank many people. My doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing all they can for me; the British Police who are pursuing my case with rigour and professionalism and are watching over me and my family. I would like to thank the British Government for taking me under their care. I am honoured to be a British citizen.

I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife, Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds.

But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

Alexander Litvinenko