December 07, 2006

Witness in Russian ex-spy case in coma

The plot thickens

MOSCOW - A witness in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence agent poisoned to death by a radioactive substance in London, fell into a coma on Thursday, is in critical condition and shows symptoms similar to those Litvinenko had, a Moscow source said.

Dmitry Kovtun, a Russian who met with Litvinenko in London in October 2006, "was able to give important testimony" to Russian and British investigators before slipping into a coma, "after which the Russian investigators decided to launch criminal proceedings on charges of attempted murder," the source told Interfax.

However, Andrew Romashov, a lawyer, said Mr Kovtun's condition had not deteriorated since he met the prosecutors.

"Kovtun's condition is satisfactory," he said, dismissing the earlier reports as "provocation".

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