A Russian businessman, accused by the British of poisoning ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, says he is being framed for the murder by the British intelligence agency.
Andrei Lugovoi said the British intelligence agency was aware of the plot to kill Litvinenko and even had a hand in the murder. Lugovoi also said he has evidence of London's involvement in the death of Litvinenko, who was dosed with radioactive polonium-210.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Lugovoi said, "I'm certain about one thing. The British special services had to at least know of the plot against him. Even if (British special services) hadn't done it itself, it was done under its control or connivance."
Lugovoi did not elaborate on his evidence. The Russian government has refused Britain's requests to extradite the former spy.
Litvinenko, who received British citizenship after fleeing Russia, was a strong critic of the Kremlin. He died in November.
Last week, British officials said they had enough evidence to charge Lugovoi, who also worked for the KGB and its main successor agency, the FSB, in the murder.
Lugovoi, however, said the killing was part of an effort by British intelligence to discredit Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
"The British asked me to collect any compromising information about President Putin and members of his family," Lugovoi said. "It was a standard recruitment attempt with intelligence and political motives against Russia and its president."
Lugovoi said the attempted recruitment occurred during business trips to Britain. He did not give a precise date, but indicated the alleged approach occurred in late 2005 or early 2006.
A British government security official, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing Lugovoi's claims, told The Associated Press suggestions that British intelligence was involved in Litvinenko's death were spurious.
London's Foreign Office, responsible for the country's overseas secret intelligence service MI6, declined to comment on Lugovoi's claim. But another government official with knowledge of Lugovoi, who also demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the allegations were untrue.
From NPR's Gregory Feifer and The Associated Press