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  • UK aircraft radiation probe widened to two Russian jets as BA seeks to contact 30,000 passengers 'at risk' of contamination

UK aircraft radiation probe widened to two Russian jets as BA seeks to contact 30,000 passengers 'at risk' of contamination

UK authorities have extended their inquiries over the radiation-related death of a former Russian spy to two Russian aircraft, including a Transaero Boeing 737.

It follows the grounding of three British Airways Boeing 767-300ERs in London and Moscow after traces of a radioactive substance were discovered during investigations into the death of Alexander Litvinenko a former agent of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), a sucessor to the Soviet-era  KGB. Litvinenko died in London on 23 November and had been admitted to hospital days before, suffering the effects of contact with a radioactive isotope identified as polonium-210a former Russian secret agent in London

The UK interior minister John Reid says that a Transaero aircraft which arrived on a scheduled flight from Moscow Domodedovo airport today – a service codeshared with UK carrier BMI – is of interest to the inquiry.

Earlier today, the UK government revealed that as many as 30,000 people who travelled on three BA 767-300ERs within Europe over a five-week period in late October and this month are being contacted over fears of possible radioactive contamination linked to the death of a former Russian spy in London last week.

The carrier identified the three aircraft grounded for forensic tests. All three Rolls-Royce RB211-powered aircraft are owned by the UK flag-carrier. The oldest of the twin-jets, registered G-BNWB, is a 16-year old example. BA has also confirmed the temporary grounding of a 12-year old aircraft, G-BNWX, and an eight-year old jet, G-BZHA. The 767 pictured below is not part of the investigation.

© Max Kingsley-Jones / Flight 

Two of the aircraft have been kept on the ground at London Heathrow while the third is at Moscow Domodedovo airport. Initial tests on the aircraft have revealed that at least two of the 767s have been in contact with a radioactive substance.

The government contacted BA over the matter two days ago and the extent of the investigation has been limited to these three jets.

BA has since identified dozens of flights conducted by the aircraft on routes between London and Moscow, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Athens, Barcelona, Larnaca, Stockholm, Warsaw, Istanbul and Madrid between 25 October and 29 November.

While it believes that any risk to passengers is low, the carrier has advised passengers who travelled on the flights concerned to seek medical advice and the carrier is working to contact thousands of passengers who travelled on the 767s over the past five weeks after traces of radioactivity were found on two of the aircraft.

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