March 24, 2009 / 2:33 PM / 10 years ago

Litvinenko murder suspect drops Olympic city mayor bid

Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB officer named as a suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London last year, speaks to the media during his visit to Manturovo settlement in the southwestern Russian Kursk region November 22, 2007. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Britain’s main suspect in the London murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko Tuesday dropped his bid to become mayor of the Russian city hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, with his party blaming low support.

Andrei Lugovoy, 42, who is wanted by British police on suspicion of killing Litvinenko with a radioactive poison in 2006, said he would instead focus on Russia’s parliament, where he represents the far-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).

“Today the leadership of the party took a final decision that my candidacy would not be put forward for the Sochi mayoral election,” Lugovoy said in a statement.

The LDPR, which last month said Lugovoy was its most likely candidate, dropped him Tuesday in favor of a local politician after Sochi residents said they would prefer to be represented by someone from their region.

The winner of the election on April 26 will be mayor of the resort town on the Black Sea for five years and have a strong influence on how to spend billions of dollars set aside for the Winter Olympics in February 2014.

Lugovoy has become a minor celebrity in Russia after the government refused to extradite him to Britain, citing its constitution which bans handing over nationals to stand trial in foreign countries.

Lugovoy, a former security service bodyguard who went on to run a private security business, denies any role in Litvinenko’s murder.

Diplomats have suggested that Lugovoy is using politics to keep himself in the public eye to avoid any risk to his own safety following the Litvinenko murder.

Reporting by Aydar Buribayev, writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Myra MacDonald

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