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Berezovsky sues Russian TV, cites false claims

LONDON/MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russian self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, wanted by the Russian government for fraud, is suing Russian TV network VGTRK Thursday in London over claims that a tape that was used as evidence to grant him asylum in Britain was fake.

The network has so far been unavailable for comment.

The Rossiya channel in its Vesti news program on Sunday, April 1 showed an interview with a new anonymous witness in the case of a former Russian security officer, Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in London last year.

The witness, who appeared on the Rossiya channel with his face hidden and was referred to as Pyotr, accused 61-year-old Berezovsky of killing Alexander Litvinenko because the former security officer knew how the exiled tycoon had obtained political asylum in Britain in 2003.

Litvinenko, 44, died of radioactive poisoning in November in London shortly after he received a British passport. In his deathbed note, he blamed the Kremlin for his death, but the Kremlin denied the allegations.

The new witness, who allegedly also lived in London, told Russian television that Litvinenko, his acquaintance and an associate of Berezovsky, had offered him from 2 to 40 million pounds if he testified he had been sent to London to kill Berezovsky.

"You just say you were sent to murder Berezovsky with poison placed in a pen," Pyotr quoted Litvinenko as saying to him.

After he refused to cooperate, Berezovsky's associates put drugs into his coffee, and falsified an audio with his "confessions," Pyotr said. Litvinenko later produced the audio as evidence in court, which Pyotr said had secured Berezovsky the refugee status.

In 1998, Litvinenko himself publicly told a news conference in Moscow that he had been ordered by his superiors at the Federal Security Service (FSB) to assassinate Berezovsky, who was a senior state official at the time. Pyotr said Berezovsky rewarded Litvinenko with financial support while he lived in London.

The mysterious witness said Scotland Yard agents were guarding him at the request of Russian prosecutors because he was afraid he could be poisoned like Litvinenko.

Scotland Yard and Russian prosecutors are investigating the Litvinenko poisoning case. Both Berezovsky and a fugitive Chechen separatist leader, Akhmed Zakayev, were questioned by Russian prosecutors and Scotland Yard agents in London in March.

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