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They were the best of the best of Russia’s special forces — and they were shooting at Alexander Litvinenko.

Images of elite Spetsnaz troops using pictures of the murdered former Russian spy for target practice prompted fresh accusations yesterday that the Kremlin was behind his killing.

The pictures were taken at a training camp outside Moscow where 90 troops from the Interior Ministry’s Vityaz (Hero) brigade were competing to earn the coveted maroon beret of the special forces.

Footage from the Vityaz training centre, filmed for publicity purposes, shows young soldiers weaving through an obstacle course before a live-fire exercise, in which they pump rounds from revolvers into a photograph of Litvinenko. His face was quickly riddled with 9mm bullet holes.

Russia’s third most senior politician, Sergei Mironov, chairman of the Federation Council, presented the maroon berets to nine successful candidates in the competition last November, six days after Litvinenko was poisoned in London with radioactive polonium210. «This just proves the point that Alexander Litvinenko was No1 one on the hit-list of the Russian security services,» Alexander Goldfarb, a spokesman for Litvinenko’s family, told The Times. «He was their archenemy.»

the times