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British Minister Blasts Russia's President in Spy Poisoning Case


A senior British government minister is accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of presiding over what he calls "huge attacks on individual liberty and democracy" in Russia.

Northern Ireland Minister Peter Hain spoke Sunday, as British anti-terror police continue probing the radiation poisoning death of a former KGB spy turned Kremlin critic. Alexander Litvinenko died Thursday in a London hospital, after blaming his mysterious poisoning on Mr. Putin.

Hain told British television that the Russian leader's record of economic successes must be balanced against what he called some "extremely murky murders" that have occurred since Mr. Putin took office in 1999. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

Before his death, the dying ex-spy told associates that those responsible for his poisoning are the same people responsible for last month's murder of noted Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow.

Meanwhile, British health authorities are still deciding whether to perform an autopsy on Litvinenko's highly radioactive corpse, which authorities say shows evidence of the deadly contaminant Polonium 210.

Traces of the deadly isotope were found in a sushi restaurant and in the bar and restaurant of a hotel where Litvinenko said he met with several contacts on the day he believed he was poisoned.

Britain has formally asked Russia for any information it has that could aid the probe. Litvinenko - an outspoken Putin critic - became a British citizen last month, six years after defecting from Russia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.