British police lauch investigation into Russian businessman death

Former Aeroflot deputy director was found dead in a London apartment
LONDON: A murder investigation has been launched into the death of Russian businessman Nikolay Glushkov, British authorities said Friday.
The 68-year-old former deputy director of Russian state airline Aeroflot was found dead Monday at his south London home.
London Metropolitan Police said in a statement that their counter-terrorism command is now treating the case as murder following a post mortem showing the cause of death as “compression to the neck”.
Glushkov was a close associate of the late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, according to local media reports.
Glushkov’s death is under heightened scrutiny following the recent poisoning in Salisbury, England of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia who remain in critical condition. As of now, however, it is officially deemed unrelated.
“At this stage, there is nothing to suggest any link to the attempted murders in Salisbury, nor any evidence that he was poisoned,” a police statement said.
Glushkov had lived in London after his release from prison in 2004 after serving a five-year prison term for a money laundering conviction in Russia. He was later granted asylum in the UK.
He was a close friend of Berezovsky, who according to an inquiry was found hanged in his home in Berkshire, England in 2013.
At the time of Berezovsky’s death, Glushkov said he believed his friend had been murdered.
“I don’t believe Boris died of natural causes. Too many deaths [of Russian exiles] have been happening,” he told the British daily the Guardian.
Berezovsky’s death is among up to 14 being reviewed by police and MI5 following the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter.
Glushkov was due to appear at a UK court in a case where Aeroflot claimed he stole $123 million from them. Last year, a Russian court found Glushkov guilty and sentenced him in absentia to eight years in prison.
– Poisoning
Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in a nerve agent attack on March 4.
He was granted refuge in the UK following a spy exchange in 2010 between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he was serving 13 years in prison for leaking information to British intelligence.
British authorities continue to investigate the attack, which also left a police officer hospitalized in serious condition.
The incident has drawn comparisons to the fate of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.
Berezovsky was also known as a friend of Litvinenko, local reports suggested.
– Strained relations
Meanwhile, a diplomatic row between the UK and Russia caused by the “attempted murder” of the Skripals intensified Friday.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it is highly likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally made the decision to use a nerve agent to attempt to kill Skripal.
“We think it is overwhelmingly likely that it was his [Putin’s] decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War. That is why we are at odds with Russia,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s comments came a day after the UK announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, as it believed that Russia is highly likely to be behind the nerve agent attack.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to Johnson’s accusation.
“Any reference or mention of our president in this regard is a shocking and unforgivable breach of diplomatic rules of decent behavior,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to the expulsion of their diplomats, saying Moscow will retaliate.
Speaking at a press conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, he also hit back at remarks by British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, who said Thursday that Russia should “go away and shut up” in response to a question about how Russia might respond to the expulsion of its diplomats.
“Maybe he [Williamson] lacks education,” Lavrov said.
Also on Thursday, France, Germany, the U.S. and the UK condemned the nerve agent attack in Salisbury in a joint statement, calling it an assault on the UK’s sovereignty and a breach of international law.
It said the UK shared with the allies its assessment that “it was highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack.
“We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security,” it added.
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement in the Salisbury incident and dismissed a deadline put forth by London to explain how the military grade nerve agent produced by Russia was used in the attack.

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