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Opinion

Polonium cocktail?

Euromoney goes where other publications fear to tread. And at the end of a long day, there’s nothing like a quiet drink at a local bar to get a feel for what people in the city we’re visiting really think. On a recent trip to Moscow, one of the team was doing just that in a rather unassuming hostelry.

Taking his seat at the bar, our correspondent struck up conversation with a couple of stern-looking but friendly-in-person Muscovites.

Particularly charming was a man we’ll call Boris, who enquired after our line of work. He offered his business card in case he could ever be of assistance. The card simply gave his Christian name, a 24-hour phone number and his line of work: "Problem solver".

His friend was a little less outgoing. But at one point he disappeared off to the gents and Boris leant over and asked, conspiratorially: "You do know who that is, don’t you?"

We confessed we did not recognize the face. But the name prompted instant recognition: Andrei Lugovoi.

Now a member of the Russian parliament, Lugovoi is a former KGB agent who is wanted by British police on suspicion of the murder by polonium poisoning of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 – a charge Lugovoi denies, and for which the Russian government refused to extradite him.

Our correspondent soon made his excuses and left. And did so relieved that during the chit-chat common to these encounters, he had not asked Lugovoi the standard question: "So, do you ever go to London on business?"

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