A FORMER KGB agent accused of poisoning Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko was last night linked to a Russian businessman found dead in London.
Russian airline mogul Nikolai Glushkov, 68, was found with “strangulation marks” at his home in New Malden by his daughter Natalia on Monday night.
It has now emerged Andrey Lugovoy, widely accused of murdering dissident Litvinenko with polonium, was jailed for attempting to spring Glushkov from prison in 2001.
At the time, Glushkov was behind bars for defrauding Russian airline company Aeroflot.
Lugovoy was sent down for 14 months but had his jail term cut short.
There were claims that he may have owed the FSB for getting him out and poisoning Litvinenko’s tea with a radioactive cocktail could have been part of his payback.
What we know so far:
- Theresa May announced she would kick out 23 diplomats in the wake of the Sergei Skripal case.
- The Russian Embassy has responded by calling the expulsion ‘unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted’.
- The Prime Minister also confirmed government officials and members of the Royal family would not be attending the World Cup in Russia.
- Vladimir Putin ignored a deadline set by the PM to explain his involvement in the poisoning and instead warned Britain ‘not to threaten a nuclear power’.
- Skripal and daughter Yulia remain in a critical condition in hospital after being exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4.
- Another cordon has now been set up 25 miles away in Gillingham, Dorset.
- Russian exiles have now been asked by cops to help identify a mystery couple aged between 35 and 40 seen close to Skripal and his daughter before they collapsed.
- Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov was discovered dead with ‘strangulation marks’ on his neck on Monday night by daughter Natalia Glushkova in New Malden, South West London.
- Anti-terror cops are investigating the 68-year-old’s ‘unexplained’ death because of the ‘associations’ he reportedly had.
A blue tent obscured the entrance to the terraced house in New Malden, Surrey, as anti-terror officers investigated the “unexplained death” of Glushkov.
One neighbour said: “He was a wonderful man, the best neighbour you could ever hope for. “He never said much about his past and never mentioned Putin but he told me how lucky I was to live in a democracy.
“Why would anyone want to kill a man who was no harm to anyone? Nothing could prepare us for the knock at the door at 3am and seeing police milling about in protective suits.”
Glushkov had a heart condition and a recent leg operation but seemed to be recovering well.
Police are probing who targeted them, with Mrs May pointing the finger at Russia and giving Vladimir Putin a deadline to explain his country’s involvement.
There is no suggestion the Salisbury poisoning was linked to that of Glushkov, 68, whose home has been taken over by forensics teams investigating his death.
Russian newspaper Kommersant, owned by Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, reported there were “traces of strangulation on his neck”.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd linked his death to that of his close friend – Russian oligarch and Putin critic Boris Berezovsky – who was also found dead in his London home in 2013.
Berezovsky’s son-in-law Yegor Shuppe today branded Glushkov’s death suspicious, telling the Daily Mail: “He did not have a sickness to die from. We helped him get good surgery, I often visited him.”
One of Berezovsky’s closest friends, Alexander Goldfarb, also said it seemed fishy, adding: “This looks very suspicious because of the recent attack on double agent Skripal.”
His neighbours said Glushkov lived a reclusive life at his home in New Malden, where he lived with his dog – but had a passion for British democracy and champagne.
His daughter, who found his body, would visit regularly with her husband but he did not have much contact with the outside world, they claim.
An unnamed woman said the former Aeroflot boss suffered from medical problems, adding: “He had a very bad leg and recently had a big operation.
“He was in a lot of pain with it. He told me he had heart problems too, he used to go to Kingston Hospital and St George’s in Tooting.”
The woman, who said she had dinner with him when he first moved in four years ago, alluded to his anti-Putin leanings.
“I was round for dinner with him when he first moved in and he mentioned to me that we should ‘appreciate democracy’ more,” she said.
“I never knew what his job was, I knew he did not want much. He was such a nice fellow, dinner was just the two of us.”
A Met Police spokesperson said: “Whilst we believe we know the identity of the deceased, formal identification is yet to take place. A post-mortem examination will be held in due course.
“The death is currently being treated as an unexplained. If there is a change in the status of the investigation, an update will be provided.
“At this stage the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation as a precaution because of associations that the man is believed to have had.”
A number of blue forensic tents were erected outside Glushkov’s home overnight, with officers pouring over the scene.
His body was found hours after the Prime Minister gave Putin until midnight to explain Russia’s involvement in the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury.
The British government is reported to be considering a range of sanctions against Putin.
But the Russian Embassy responded by saying: “Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”
Police and MI5 are now expected to investigate 14 deaths with possible links to Russia.