Berezovsky tells of 'hitman plot'

Exiled Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky has claimed British intelligence officers thwarted a plot to kill him.

Berezovsky tells of 'hitman plot'

Mr Berezovsky told the BBC he had been warned about the alleged plot by sources in Russia and Scotland Yard.

The Sun newspaper reported that a Russian hitman had been hired to execute him at a London hotel.

The claims could further damage Russia-UK relations which are already strained in a row over extradition.

'Business reasons'

Mr Berezovsky, 61, who lives in London, told BBC Radio Five Live he had received information about the alleged plot from sources in Russia.

He said he was told that "someone who you know will come to Britain, he will try to connect to you, and when you meet him he will just kill you and will not try to hide".

The killer would then say the murder was "just because of business reasons", Mr Berezovsky said.

And in this case he will get 20 years, he will spend just 10 years in jail, he will be released, his family will be paid, he will be paid and so on," he added.

Mr Berezovsky's spokeswoman said he had been informed of the alleged plot three weeks ago and had been advised to leave the country for a week.

The Sun claims Britain's security services, MI5 and MI6, intercepted intelligence about the plot and the hitman was seized within the last two weeks.

Neither police or security officials have commented on the allegations.

The Sun's political editor, George Pascoe-Watson, said it was not clear what had happened to the alleged hitman.

"The security surrounding this case is so incredibly tight because of the diplomatic ramifications that we have not yet established where he's been taken, whether or not he's been charged, what the situation is," he told BBC One's Breakfast.

'No involvement'

Russia's ambassador to the UK, Yuri Fedotov, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was "nothing that could confirm" the plot.

Asked if the Russian government was involved, he said: "It is excluded."

The claims come after Britain expelled four Russian diplomats in the escalating row over the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Moscow has refused to hand over the man suspected of the murder - Andrei Lugovoi, another former KGB agent. Mr Lugovoi denies involvement.

Russia says it is planning a "targeted and appropriate" response to the expulsions, adding that its constitution prevents it from extraditing its citizens to face trial in another country.

Speaking on BBC2's Newsnight on Tuesday, Mr Berezovsky urged Mr Lugovoi to submit himself for trial in a third country like Germany, Denmark or Norway.

Mr Berezovsky added: "Maybe the Russian constitution is against [extradition] but Lugovoi personally, if he wants to clear the situation, he is able to travel anywhere he wants if he feels he is not guilty."

Mr Fedotov later told the BBC Britain's decision to halt contact with Russia's Federal Security Service would harm its fight against terror.

"So by stopping these contacts, the British authorities are punishing themselves," he said.

Response 'considered'

A full statement is expected from Moscow, which has warned Britain to expect "serious consequences".

But the Foreign Office said it had set out its position, adding: "No retaliation on Russia's behalf is justified."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's official spokesman said any formal response from Moscow would be "considered carefully".

Mr Litvinenko died of exposure to radioactive polonium-210 in London in November 2006.

The radioactive isotope used to poison him was found in several places that Mr Lugovoi had visited in London.

But Mr Lugovoi told Russian television that the outcome of the inquiry had been predetermined.

Under the European Convention on Extradition 1957, Russia has the right to refuse the extradition of a citizen.

The UK has the right to request Mr Lugovoi be tried in Russia, but the UK's director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, has already turned down the offer.

He recommended Mr Lugovoi be tried for murder by "deliberate poisoning".


Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Temmuz 2007, 12:44