Reasons for Litvinenko's conversion to Islam revealed

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

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Exiled Chechen emissary Akhmed Zakayev revealed that although dissident Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko had converted to Islam on his deathbed, he had been considering such a move for a long time. reported that Mr. Zakayev comments on Mr. Litvinenko's conversion to Islam were made in an interview for the Voice of America (VOA) Russian program which aired Friday.

Mr. Zakayev said that Mr. Litvinenko grew up in the North Caucasus among Muslims and was always interested in their religion. According to Mr. Zakayev, Mr. Litvineko was ashamed of Russia's actions in the Chechen war and this also influenced his conversion. Mr. Zakayev told VOA that Mr. Litvinenko wanted to show that not all Russians behave the same way as those responsible for atrocities in Chechnya.

Mr. Zakayev was granted political asylum in Great Britain and the British government has refused Moscow's requests for his extradition. The Russian authorities accuse Mr. Zakayev of foreknowledge of terrorist attacks and other crimes involving hundreds of killings and captures of Russian servicemen during the separatist wars in Chechnya. He has denied these accusations.

Alexander Litvinkenko died in 2006 after a three-week struggle with effects of radiation poisoning. Before his death, Litvinenko accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of ordering his death. Since then, British and Russian investigators have found numerous traces of a rare radioactive element that caused Litvinenko's death, although no connection to Putin has been found.