Litvinenko Inquiry – 3 Aug 14

Alexander Litvinenko inquiry: Evidence Russia was involved in his death
Judge leaves open possibility that inquiry will explore whether the British state could have done more to prevent the poisoining of the former KGB spy
Tom Brooks-Pollock
Telegraph | 31 Jul 2014

A public inquiry into the death of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB spy, will look at "prima facie" evidence that the Russian state was involved and could examine whether the British government failed to protect him.

"Sensitive" government evidence over the poisoning of Mr Litvinenko in London in 2006 would be heard in closed sessions, Sir Robert Owen, the presiding judge, told the first day of the inquiry.

The possible involvement of the Russian government in Mr Litvinenko’s death would be of "central importance to my investigation," Sir Robert said.

He said he had seen "prima facie" evidence of the Russian state’s involvement. And, while he had seen no evidence that the British state failed to protect Mr Litvinenko, the scope of the inquiry could be widened if new evidence came to light.

Sir Robert, acting as coroner, formally suspended an inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death and opened the public inquiry, which he will chair, at the Royal Courts of Justice. It followed a change of heart earlier this month by the British government, who had previously refused to set up a public inquiry which can, unlike an inquest, hear evidence in secret.

He added: "Because of the sensitivity of Her Majesty’s Government’s evidence it is inevitable that at least some of my final report will also have to remain secret.

"But I make it clear now that I intend to make public my final conclusions on the issue of Russian state responsibility together with, as much as possible, my reasoning in that regard."

Mr Litvinenko,43, died after drinking tea laced with the radioactive poison polonium-210 with two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, at a hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, in November 2006.

Efforts to extradite the two Russians failed, prompting the coroner to open the inquest in 2011.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina said she accepted that some evidence would have to be heard in secret, and that she would never get to hear it.

She said: "It will not be possible to see all of the materials because they are very sensitive."

But she said she was pleased that "finally we will know about this crime" after years of delays.

Ms Litvinenko said: "It’s been so many years. It’s very important forall of us, for everybody around the world to know the truth.

"The question of who killed my husband has still not been answered."

The judge had earlier thanked Ms Litvinenko for "the patience she has demonstrated during the highly regrettable delays that have occurred".


Parts of Alexander Litvinenko inquiry to be heard in secret, coroner confirms
Sir Robert Owen also says sections of his final conclusion will be withheld due to sensitivity of documents he will consider
Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent
Guardian | 31 July 2014

Parts of the public inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB spy, will be held in secret, the judge conducting it has confirmed.

Sir Robert Owen also revealed that sections of his final conclusion may have to be withheld because of the sensitivity of the British security documents he is due to consider.

Litvinenko died aged 43 after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at a meeting with two Russian men at the Millennium hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, in November 2006.

The former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects. Both deny any involvement and remain in Russia, where Lugovoi is a deputy in the state Duma.

The long-anticipated public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death is scheduled to start in full in January next year after further preparatory sessions in September.

The schedule emerged as the inquest into Litvinenko’s murder, repeatedly delayed by legal argument, was formally suspended and the public inquiry officially opened on Thursday.

Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, was among those sitting in court 76 of the Royal Courts of Justice when Owen left the room as the outgoing coroner and returned as the chairman of the inquiry. In a prepared statement, he explained why an inquiry would have powers to consider government documents that could not have been considered by an inquest.

"Had these proceedings remained as an inquest, those documents would have had to be excluded from my inquiries," he said. "It was for precisely that reason, that is, to enable me to consider this material in closed hearings, that I asked the government to establish this inquiry.

"The most important issue to which this sensitive material relates is that of Russian state responsibility for Mr Litvinenko’s death. As I have previously stated, I regard this issue as being of central importance to my investigation … The sensitive HMG material taken in isolation establishes a prima facie case that the Russian state was responsible for Mr Litvinenko’s death, a view that I have subsequently endorsed."

Owen added: "Because of the sensitivity of … government’s evidence it is inevitable that at least some of my final report will also have to remain secret. But I make it clear now that I intend to make public my final conclusions on the issue of Russian state responsibility together with as much as possible of my reasoning in that regard."

Outside the courts, Marina Litvinenko said: "Finally we will know about this crime. It’s been so many years. It’s very important for all of us, for everybody around the world to know the truth. The question of who killed my husband has still not been answered."

Litvinenko accepted that she would not be able to see the sensitive intelligence documents but said it was important that lawyers for the inquiry should be able to examine them so they could inform the inquiry’s final judgment.

"I know that it’s material I will not be able to see."

The terms of reference for the investigation are "to conduct an investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko in order to ascertain who the deceased was; how, when and where he came by his death; identify where responsibility for the death lies and make appropriate recommendations".

Under the Inquiries Act, Owen will have the power to demand the production of witnesses and papers within UK jurisdiction, including agents and documents from the security and intelligence services. However, he has no such powers in relation to evidence from Russia.

The inquiry will not focus on the role UK authorities might have had in preventing his death but, if fresh evidence about that emerges during the inquiry, it may be brought into the scope of the process.


Brits Investigate Assassination of the Spy Who Warned Us About Putin
Nico Hines
The Daily Beast | 07.22.14

Eight years ago, the Kremlin likely murdered a former KGB officer living in London with radioactive poison. The U.K. was too cozy with Russia to go after his killers—until now


LONDON —  Vladimir Putin thought he’d got away with murder. At least that was the conclusion of diplomats and security officials for eight years as Britain ignored demands for an inquiry into the assassination of a former KGB officer in Central London.

Alexander Litvinenko had angered the Kremlin with repeated claims that Putin was running a thuggish and brutal regime. He sought refuge in Britain and was granted asylum, but local police were powerless to prevent his assassination. He was struck down inside an upmarket London hotel by a rare radioactive poison that had been slipped in to his pot of tea.

Many suspected Moscow’s hand, and the victim’s family described his killing as “state-sponsored nuclear terrorism.” Scotland Yard investigators found a trail of radioactivity from the deadly polonium-210 isotope that led all the way back to the Moscow. The British government, however, steadfastly refused to sanction an inquiry into Russia’s involvement. That changed Tuesday when Theresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary, announced a full inquiry into Litvenenko’s murder just as global leaders were lining up to say that Putin has blood on his hands after the death of almost 300 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

For at least one death, Russia’s president will escape scrutiny no more. A public inquiry will be opened next week to examine whether the Russian state was behind the death of Litvinenko, a man who had previously accused the Kremlin of killing its own citizens and said he was investigating the death of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Eight years prior to today’s announcement, London’s relationship with Moscow was very different. The government had encouraged Russian money to pour into the country with an overhaul of tax and immigration rules that transformed the city into a haven for Russia’s super-rich generation of oligarchs. Wealthy Russians, both pro- and anti-Putin, moved their families and their bank accounts to Britain in order to protect them from Moscow’s erratic and lawless climate.

When Putin was accused of extending his system of recriminations to reach into the heart of London, the British government appeared reluctant to challenge him openly. Relations were already strained by the sheer quantity of wealth that had been transferred out of Russia, and the number of dissidents who had been granted asylum in Britain.The British government admitted for the first time earlier this year that the murder investigation had been curbed for political reasons. “It is true that international relations have been a factor in the Government’s decision-making,” May conceded.If Putin took this as evidence that no one would dare to call him out for murder, who could blame him?When Russia’s football team traveled to London for a crucial game against England in September 2007, one of the Russian fans marched around Wembley Stadium cloaked in a Russian flag, wearing a T-shirt that bore the legend: “Polonium-210.”

He was celebrating the most brazen murder of a Russian dissident since the end of the Cold War; a murder that had taken place less than a mile from Buckingham Palace with seemingly no repercussions from the British authorities. No wonder Russian nationalists thought it was worthy of celebration.Even the details of an official call for a full inquiry had been hushed up by the British government. During a High Court appeal in January this year, it emerged that Sir Robert Owen, who was appointed as Litvinenko’s coroner, had been making a powerful case behind closed doors. He had concluded that documents held by the British government “establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko”. He told senior officials that an inquest was not powerful enough to handle the kind of allegations he needed to explore.

Today he was appointed chairman of an inquiry that will begin on July 31. The inquiry, most of which will be heard in public, should be completed by the end of next year. Owen will have the power to compel the production of witnesses and documents from the British security and intelligence services.

Obviously, he will have no such power to demand the appearance of Russian officials and intelligence officers. Back in 2007, Britain’s office of public prosecutions recommended that former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun be charged with murder. Moscow said the men, who deny responsibility, would not be extradited to London for trial under any circumstances.

Scotland Yard felt they had more than enough evidence for a prosecution. Polonium-210 may have seemed like the perfect murder weapon due to its colorless and odorless properties and its gradual but devastating impact on the health of a human being. Even airport scanners, which are set up to detect radioactive gamma rays, miss the alpha rays given off by this radioactive isotope. Because it was such an unusual poison, the killers may have felt it was unlikely that medical staff would know to test for it.

The slow, painful death of Litvinenko, 43, who had been working for MI6, was curious enough, however, for authorities to keep probing until they successfully identified the radioactivity that was killing the former KGB agent from the inside.Once the polonium had been recognized, police were able to trace the source of the poison to the Millennium hotel in Mayfair. Lugovoi and Kovtun had met Litvinenko there for tea on November 1, ten days before he was admitted to Barnet General Hospital in North London.From the tea rooms of the Millennium hotel, Scotland Yard followed the trail; tracing back over Lugovoi’s apparent itinerary from Heathrow airport, to the Abracadabra lap-dancing club and the Emirates soccer stadium, where he had watched Arsenal play CSKA Moscow in a Champions League game.Traces of the isotope were also found on return flights from Russia, inside the British embassy in Moscow and in a flat in Hamburg linked to Kovtun.Many years after this evidence was collected Sir Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, admitted the timing of today’s announcement was “a bit quirky” given the current pressure on Putin. Downing Street denied that there was any connection.In truth, it was Marina Litvinenko who made it happen. Faced with a recalcitrant government she sought assistance in the courts, and it was her victorious appeal at the High Court earlier this year that forced the government into a u-turn on behalf of her slain husband, a man she called Sasha. “I am relieved and delighted with this decision. It sends a message to Sasha’s murderers: no matter how strong and powerful you are, truth will win out in the end and you will be held accountable for your crimes.”If Western governments are too weak to hold Putin to account, the only hope lies in the families of his many victims.

Russia’s Polonium Widow

Marina Litvinenko thinks her husband was poisoned in London by the Kremlin’s agents. This week Britain reopened the case
Sohrab Ahmari
WSJ | July 25, 2014


When they first met in Moscow in the summer of 1993, Marina Litvinenko was struck by Alexander Litvinenko’s youthfulness. "I found Sasha a very easygoing guy, very funny and very protective," Ms. Litvinenko tells me, using the diminutive form of her late husband’s first name. "He looked like a very nice guy—so much younger-looking than his age. He was in his 30s, but he looked much younger."

Thirteen years later, on Nov. 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned at a London hotel bar where he had met an ex-officer of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, and an FSB-linked businessman. Litvinenko had served in the FSB for more than a decade before being ousted for exposing official malfeasance that reached the highest levels of the state. He fell ill soon after the meeting, and over the next three weeks his condition worsened. He had been poisoned, investigators later determined, by highly radioactive polonium-210 that had been slipped into his tea at the hotel that day. The poison caused his hair to fall out and his digestive system to fail; doctors fed him through a tube until, at age 43, he finally succumbed.

It was while he was in that awful state that most of the rest of the world was introduced to the FSB defector. A photo taken while he was hospitalized made newspaper front pages: His lips were thinned almost to nothing, his head totally bald, his cheeks hollowed out, his piercing blue eyes sunk into their sockets. Alexander Litvinenko in his British-tabloid incarnation looked like the undead. The image soon became synonymous with what happens to those who wind up on the wrong side of Vladimir Putin’s mafia state.

Ms. Litvinenko has spent much of the past eight years confronting that state, and the elegant former professional dancer has less-obvious scars to show for it. "I’m not a paranoid person and I try to live a normal life," she says as we sit in the lobby of a hotel in South Kensington, a London area popular with the city’s large Russian émigré community. "I don’t wake up with this on my mind and go to bed with it on my mind. But I know that if something happened to me, Sasha would be continuing until he found out what happened. So it’s what I can do for him."

Bringing the killers to justice hasn’t been easy amid the apathy of a European political class that until recently sought to appease Mr. Putin, even if that meant letting very unpleasant bygones be bygones. Although British police conducted a crime investigation, and at least one Russian suspect was charged (in absentia) with murder, the U.K. government long resisted launching an independent inquiry. Home Secretary Theresa May even conceded in a letter to the High Court of Justice last year that "international relations"—that is, relations with Moscow—"have been a factor in the government’s decision-making."

This week brought a stunning reversal. In a letter to Parliament on Tuesday, Ms. May announced a new inquiry. Sir Robert Owen, the High Court jurist who will lead the investigation, has already concluded that the underlying material establishes "a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state," and according to media reports he will now have access to classified British government information that wasn’t available during the original inquest.


Did the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Kremlin-backed Ukrainian separatists impel London to dust off the dossier? Ms. Litvinenko doesn’t think so. While noting that "everything around my case is political," she says that the timing of the announcement amid rising world-wide revulsion for Russia was a coincidence: "It’s not to put more pressure on President Putin or to make his day as bad as possible."

But she believes that the Ukraine crisis has awakened some Western capitals to the true nature of the Putin regime. Take British Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government. "They put good relations with Russia in top priority," she says. "But the Russians have been trained in a different way. They’re not from Oxford, or from Cambridge. They’ve got a different agenda. They’ve been trained by the KGB . . . . Every time you cede more, they will try to catch you in a weaker position. If you say, ‘Excuse me, I did something wrong,’ they don’t appreciate it—they say, ‘OK, now I will make it worse for you.’ "

Mr. Cameron’s government, Ms. Litvinenko thinks, now gets this, hence the new investigation. "I’m not saying ‘I told you so,’ " she says. "It’s just so sad how many people had to die before the West realized."

As Marina Litvinenko retells it, life with her husband often resembled the plot of a John le Carré espionage novel a la russe . Perhaps it was far less extraordinary when set against the background of modern Russia, where in the 1990s oligarchy replaced Soviet communism and where paying bribes "became like paying tariffs," as Ms. Litvinenko says.

The couple married in 1994, shortly after their only son, Anatoly, was born. (Alexander had two children from a previous marriage.) Litvinenko was at the time working in the FSB’s economic- and organized-crimes unit. Her husband was especially sensitive to the rampant graft and official criminality around them, Ms. Litvinenko says. "Working against crime it started to become very difficult because all the same crime started to be in the government."

At one point, Litvinenko even asked his wife to type a statement addressed to the Kremlin "about how these people who work underground, stealing money, are very soon going to be respectable businessmen and then going to control politics." She’s not sure if the statement ever made it to high officials, and it’s difficult to completely square Ms. Litvinenko’s image of her husband as an idealistic outsider—one he cultivated during his lifetime—with the murky realities of post-Soviet Russia.

What’s clearer is that in late 1997, amid his growing disillusionment with the FSB security service, Alexander Litvinenko was ordered by his superiors to knock off Boris Berezovsky, a mathematician-cum-billionaire TV mogul. Litvinenko had by then already developed a friendship with Berezovsky. "Sasha decided not to go to the press but to go to Berezovsky," Ms. Litvinenko says. "Berezovsky couldn’t believe it." Eventually, she says, her husband and a few like-minded colleagues wrote a letter to then-President Boris Yeltsin regarding the episode. But the Kremlin man who received the statement "sent it back to the same people who had asked Sasha to kill Berezovsky," according to Ms. Litvinenko.

The aborted hit on Berezovsky would eventually lead to the resignation of the FSB’s director. His replacement in 1998 was none other than Vladimir Putin. Ms. Litvinenko says that after her husband "showed Putin the connections between organized crime and officers in FSB," the Litvinenkos’ telephone line was tapped.

In November 1998, Litvinenko and three other colleagues in Russia held a news conference, laying out the evidence they had of high-level, FSB-connected corruption. "The FSB is being used by certain officials solely for their private purposes," Litvinenko said. "It’s being used for settling scores and carrying out private and criminal orders for payment." From then on the state went into action against her husband, Ms. Litvinenko says. "Our life became completely different."

Litvinenko was forced to resign from the FSB. The state prosecution service charged him with "exceeding his official authority." He served seven months before being cleared of that charge, only to be briefly detained again and released in 2000. "When I spoke with the prosecution service," Ms. Litvinenko recalls, "they said . . . ‘Sasha shouldn’t go on TV, and we have all his cases. If something won’t get him to prison, we’ll open another case and another one and another one.’ They openly told me that they would fabricate cases."

In the fall of 2000, the Litvinenkos made their way to Britain via Turkey. The next year they were granted political asylum. Litvinenko began consulting with the British secret service, MI6. Ms. Litvinenko says "it was all about his work with organized crime," which makes sense given the huge influx of Russian immigrants into Britain at that time. He also became active in Russian dissident circles, co-writing a 2002 book, "Blowing Up Russia," which alleged that a series of 1999 Moscow apartment-block bombings was orchestrated by Mr. Putin to reignite Russia’s Chechen wars and propel him to power.

All the while, Litvinenko was awake to the risks that he and his family faced, even in London. As the Putinist tide began to rise in Russia, legislators passed laws in 2006 authorizing the government to target state enemies abroad. A list of names began to circulate: It included the dissident journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Berezovsky, who by then had also found asylum in the U.K., and Alexander Litvinenko. All three are now dead: Politkovskaya and Litvinenko were assassinated in 2006, and Berezovsky died last year in an apparent suicide.

"Sasha knew this but he believed that he’s a professional," Ms. Litvinenko says. "He thought he could protect [himself]. But it didn’t happen."

Of the two men Litvinenko met that fateful evening in November 2006, one, Andrei Lugovoi, was known to him as an FSB associate and former head of security at Berezovsky’s office. The other, Dmitry Kovtun, was new to him. British investigators eventually traced the polonium trail back to both men, but by then both had returned to Russia, which has refused extradition requests for Mr. Lugovoi for legal proceedings. Messrs. Lugovoi and Kovtun have both repeatedly denied any involvement in Alexander Litvinenko’s death.

Mr. Kovtun has since maintained a relatively low profile. Mr. Lugovoi has entered the Russian parliament. "The guy is even a leader there in the security commission," Ms. Litvinenko says. "It’s a black joke! The guy is a suspect, who could use radioactive material in London." Her compatriots are aware of these bitter truths, she thinks. "I can’t say people are happy about this, but Russians have this special sarcasm—’OK, they’ve done it—so what?’ "

That fatalistic attitude is ruinous for Russian progress, Ms. Litvinenko suggests. "For many people," she says, "democracy is equivalent to having a luxury car, having a good place, streets looking the same as in London and France, the same shops. But that’s not democracy. But many people are happy with this. They care more about stability than human rights. . . . I can’t understand how you could teach your child to live this way, to not be proud of what you do, to not feel real freedom, to not know there’s rule of law."

It’s the Russian public’s apathy that keeps Mr. Putin in power, she says. "He doesn’t have any ideology. It’s about money, power, control. During the Soviet Union, the KGB was a weapon without money. Now it’s a weapon and money. They don’t think about Russia, the future of a country."

As for the West, Ms. Litvinenko is puzzled by those who still urge rapprochement with Mr. Putin’s Russia. "They say Putin is a person you can’t push hard because he becomes harder," she says. "But I disagree." What does she hope will be achieved by the public inquest, at last, into her husband’s murder? "I don’t want to just punish somebody. I just need to finish this one, for memory of Sasha. I want people to know the truth."

Then she adds, in a wavering voice, "To give him a rest."

Mr. Ahmari is a Journal editorial-page writer based in London.

Moscow’s Ambassador to London Stresses Russia’s Interest in Litvinenko’s Case Probe

LONDON, July 24, 2014 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow is among the key stakeholders in finding out the truth about the death of Russia’s Alexander Litvinenko back in 2006, who was a former Federal Security Service officer, Russian Ambassador to London Alexander Yakovenko said Thursday.

"Russia is among the most interested parties in establishing the truth in this dark business. Simply because serious allegations against the Russian Federation have been made publicly. We have always asked the British authorities to provide evidence, which, as they claim, they have, accusing Russian citizens [of the involvement in Litvinenko’s death]. But these requests were rejected," the ambassador said at a press conference in London.

"The British government has refused to provide this evidence upon request of the Coroner conducting the inquiry. Now, as we understand, the evidence will be examined in private hearings, closed to the public, presumably for reasons of national security. We will never accept any decision based on evidence which had not been considered in a competitive open trial," the Ambassador said.

On Tuesday, UK Home Secretary Theresa May agreed to a public inquiry on the Litvinenko case after a number of refusals to do so, arguing that the existing enquiry connected with the case of Litvinenko’s death is sufficient. The first hearing of the respective proceedings will be held on July 31. At the same time the investigation dropped alleged charges against the British side for failing to prevent Litvinenko’s death.

It is an issue that could not be investigated during the inquest into Litvinenko’s death earlier, as the inquest did not allow considering certain sensitive material on the case.

Litvinenko’s widow Marina Litvinenko won a High Court ruling that May should reconsider her decision not to allow a public inquiry. Coroner Sir Robert Owen, who was conducting the inquest into Litvinenko’s death, proposed a public inquiry as a more appropriate measure instead of an inquest, since it would allow the consideration of sensitive material in private.

With public inquiry approved by the UK government, this material, potentially relating to the alleged role of Russia in Litvinenko’s death, can be used in the investigation.

Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006 of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 in London. His health began to deteriorate after he met up with former colleagues Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun for a cup of tea in London’s Millennium hotel.



Lugovoi rules out participating in public probe of Litvinenko’s death in London, calls it "cynicism"

MOSCOW. July 22, 2014 (Interfax) – The decision of the British authorities to resume investigating circumstances of Alexander Litvinenko’s death is cynical and politically motivated, Russian State Duma Deputy Andrei Lugovoi told Interfax on Tuesday.

"Cynicism, deception, and treachery. This is the only way I can comment on the actions of the British establishment and the decision to hold a public investigation of Litvinenko’s death," Lugovoi said. This piece of new is perplexing, he said.

Circumstances of Alexander Litvinenko’s death, who passed away in London in November 2006 of polonium poisoning, will be investigated publicly, British Secretary of State for the Home Department Theresa May said earlier.

"This year it will be eight years since Litvinenko’s death. And every time the British pull the Litvinenko case out, right when ‘political viability’ becomes an option. Now, due to the situation existing in southeastern Ukraine, the West enhanced pressure on Russia and personally on President Vladimir Putin," Lugovoi said.

Lugovoi said he did not consider the possibility to participate in the public investigation in London in any way.

Former agent of the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB, Alexander Litvinenko, who fled to the UK in 2000, died in November 2006. The radioactive element Polonium 210 was found in his body later.

Duma Deputy Andrei Lugovoi is considered to be the main suspect in the case by the UK. Lugovoi insists he is innocent. In April 2012 Lugovoi took polygraph test conducted by the British experts, which showed he was innocent.

UK Home Secretary announces public hearing on Litvinenko case

The inquiry will be conducted by a specially appointed judge who will hear any person wishing to testify and provide any relevant information

LONDON/MOSCOW, July 22, 2014 /ITAR-TASS/. After long consultations the British government on Tuesday agreed to hold public hearings on the death of former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London in 2006.

Home Secretary Theresa May said in a written message to the parliament that a public hearing on the Litvinenko case would be held.

The inquiry will be conducted by a specially appointed judge who will hear any person wishing to testify and provide any relevant information.

“Subsequent to today’s announcement that the Home Secretary is establishing an Inquiry … into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, Sir Robert Owen, in his capacity as Assistant Coroner for the Inner North London District of Greater London, will hold a hearing on Thursday, 31 July 2014 to formally suspend the current Inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Following which Sir Robert will open the Inquiry into Mr Litvinenko’s death,” the coroner said in an operational note on Tuesday.

The British government earlier opposed the idea of public hearings saying they might have an adverse impact on relations with Russia.

Secretary May said the government should wait until the end of the inquest before making a decision on whether to hold a public investigation or not. In the early autumn of 2013, Litvinenko’s widow filed a supervisory complaint against this decision and it was granted in February of this year.

Owen said that Russia’s responsibility for his death would not be included in the scope of the inquest. He also ruled that the responsibility of the British State for Litvinenko’s death would not be included in the scope of the inquest either.

Owen said he had come “to the conclusion that Russian State responsibility should also be withdrawn from the scope of the inquest.”

The assistant coroner said he could not consider these two aspects as he was unable to hear the evidence of Litvinenko’s cooperation with British security services, following the court ruling upholding the British government’s request that such evidence should remain classified.

Speaking of whether the British State could have prevented Litvinenko’s death, Owen said, “This is an issue of the highest importance, involving as it does the possible culpability of the British State for the death of Alexander Litvinenko.”

In November 2013, London’s High Court ruled against disclosing some of the materials in the Litvinenko as had been requested by Owen. The High Court issued its ruling after then Foreign Secretary William Hague’s appeal against Owen’s request, in which the former insisted that classified materials remain undisclosed.

On February 7, 2013, Hague, who oversaw the British security services, sent a note to Owen, stating that disclosing secret information in the Litvinenko inquest would be unacceptable and detrimental to British interests.

Having studied the note, Owen on May 17, 2013 supported it in part, but said that the other materials should be made public for the sake of fair and complete inquest.

However the government opposed Owen’s position and succeeded in getting it overruled by the High Court, saying that the documents the assistant coroner had sought to make public were highly sensitive and their disclosure could impair national security.

Interested parties to the process include Maria Litvinenko and her son Anatoly, late entrepreneur Boris Berezovsky (the court intends to look into his possible role in Litvinenko’s death), Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Deputy Andrei Lugovoi (who the British authorities claim to be a suspect in the case and who flatly denies any such charges), Metropolitan police, and the British Foreign Office.

The Inquest said earlier it might look into the involvement of Litvinenko’s late friend Boris Berezovsky and groups connected with Chechens and the Spanish Mafia. The court may also consider different leads such as Litvinenko’s suicide and the infliction of death by negligence.

However, the lawyer of Litvinenko’s wife Marina said that her defendant did not like the assumptions that her husband might have committed suicide or died as a result of some accident. Marina believes these leads have no foundation but she is prepared for a situation where they will be considered in court.

It’s a coroner’s duty to find out if the death of a person has constituent elements of offence. After that, the coroner decided whether the case should be submitted for judicial inquiry.

Litvinenko died of polonium 210 poisoning at a London hospital in November 2006.

British investigators consider Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi to be the main suspect in the case, but he flatly denies all charges. Lugovoi is incriminated in Litvinenko’s death in Britain. The British authorities claim that Lugovoi is responsible for Litvinenko’s death.

Luguvoi has declined to comment. “I will make no comment for the time being,” he told ITAR-TASS.



Alexander Litvinenko: Profile of murdered Russian spy
BBC | 22 July 2014

A public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko has been announced by the Home Secretary Theresa May. But who was he and why did his death become such a cause celebre?

Alexander Litvinenko fell ill after a meeting with former KGB contacts in London in 2006

Before he was poisoned and died in November 2006, few outside Russia had ever heard of Alexander Litvinenko.

A 43-year-old former officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB), Mr Litvinenko had become a useful, if not entirely reliable, source for journalists interested in the machinations of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But it has since emerged the Russian spy was being paid by both the British secret service MI6 and the Spanish secret service.

He was allegedly investigating Spanish links to the Russian mafia, and had planned to fly to Spain with the main suspect for his murder, Andrei Lugovoi.

At a central London hotel on 1 November 2006 he took tea with Mr Lugovoi and another Russian contact Dmitri Kovtun.

He fell ill soon afterwards and spent the night vomiting.

Three days later he was admitted to Barnet General Hospital in north London, where his condition gradually became a cause for concern.

On 11 November he was interviewed by the BBC Russian Service and said he was in "very bad shape" after a "serious poisoning".


The Litvinenko case

  • 23 Nov 2006 – Litvinenko dies three weeks after having tea with former agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun in London
  • 24 Nov 2006 – His death is attributed to polonium-210
  • 22 May 2007 – Britain’s director of public prosecutions decides Mr Lugovoi should be charged with the murder of Mr Litvinenko
  • 31 May 2007 – Mr Lugovoi denies any involvement in his death but says Mr Litvinenko was a British spy
  • 5 Jul 2007 – Russia officially refuses to extradite Mr Lugovoi, saying its constitution does not allow it
  • May-June 2013 – Inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death delayed as coroner decides a public inquiry would be preferable, as it would be able to hear some evidence in secret
  • July 2013 – Ministers rule out public inquiry
  • Jan 2014 – Marina Litvinenko in High Court fight to force a public inquiry
  • 11 Feb 2014 – High Court says the Home Office had been wrong to rule out an inquiry before the outcome of an inquest line
  • July 2014 – Public inquiry announced by Home Office


During that same interview, Mr Litvinenko, a critic of the Putin regime, said he had been looking into the assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

He said he would hand over documents he had received on 1 November to a Russian newspaper when he recovered.

But he never did. On 17 November he was transferred to University College Hospital in London after his condition worsened.

He died six days later, with his wife Marina, father Walter, and son Anatoli at his bedside.

Born in the city of Voronezh in 1962, Mr Litvinenko joined a military unit of the Soviet Union’s interior ministry in 1980 and reportedly joined the KGB eight years later.

He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel when the KGB became the FSB in the 1990s.

Mr Putin was his ultimate boss at the FSB but they reportedly fell out.

After leaving the service Mr Litvinenko wrote a book, Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within, in which he claimed FSB agents had been responsible for the bombing of apartment blocks in Moscow and two other cities in 1999.

Police investigating the poisoning sealed off several premises, including this Itsu restaurant, for a period afterwards

The bombings were blamed on Chechen separatists and his book claimed they were used as a pretext for the second Russian invasion of Chechnya.

Mr Litvinenko came to Britain in 2000 and obtained asylum.

After his death, suspicion fell on Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun, the two Russians he had met for tea at the Millennium Hotel.

A post-mortem examination suggested Mr Litvinenko had died after being poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium-210.

A frantic police investigation led to a number of premises being briefly sealed off while forensic scientists tested for traces of the radioactive material.

Locations which tested positive included the Millennium Hotel, the Abracadabra lap-dancing club and the Emirates football stadium, where Mr Lugovoi had watched Arsenal play CSKA Moscow.

It also emerged he had met Italian academic Mario Scaramella at the Itsu sushi restaurant in central London, where he is said to have received documents about the death of Mrs Politkovskaya, a long-term critic of the FSB.

Lugovoi accused

Traces were also found on two planes at Heathrow airport, at the British embassy in Moscow and at a flat in Hamburg, Germany, linked to Mr Kovtun.

Around 700 people had to be tested for radioactive poisoning but none were seriously ill.

After a two-month investigation, Scotland Yard detectives handed over a file to the then director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, who announced in May 2007 that he was recommending Mr Lugovoi be charged with murder.

Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun both denied any responsibility for the death and at a news conference in Moscow Mr Lugovoi repeatedly stressed his innocence and claimed Mr Litvinenko was a British spy who might have been killed by the British security services.

The office of the prosecutor general in Moscow was quick to declare that Mr Lugovoi could not and would not be extradited because the constitution prevented the extradition of Russian citizens.

Andrei Lugovoi has denied any involvement and has accused the British security services

In July 2007, British-Russian tensions turned into an ugly spat with four Russian and four British diplomats expelled from their respective embassies.

The UK broke off links with the Russian security services and, although relations have thawed, David Cameron refused to renew links between MI6 and the FSB when he visited Moscow in 2011.

After pre-inquest reviews in September and December 2012, the date for the inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death was set at 1 May 2013.

But it was delayed after the coroner in charge of the case, Sir Robert Owen, decided that the inquest would not be able to hear evidence linked to alleged Russian state involvement.

Sir Robert said that without such material any verdict would be "potentially misleading and unfair" and suggested a public inquiry would be preferable as it would allow some evidence to be heard in secret.

But in July 2013, the British government formally rejected the idea.

The Litvinenko family called for a judicial review of the refusal, saying it showed "utter contempt".

But the government has now set up an inquiry to examine whether the Russian state was behind his death.

The inquiry will hold most of its hearings in public, although potentially sensitive material could "if absolutely necessary" be heard in closed session, a Downing Street spokesman said.



By Mona Charen
National Review Online | July 23, 2014

Alexander Litvinenko, who accused Vladimir Putin of a variety of crimes, was poisoned. It wasn’t one of those quick poisonings such as you get from, say, strychnine. No, he sickened and died over the course of a long month, losing his hair and suffering severe vomiting, diarrhea, organ failure, and then death. Litvinenko died in a London hospital.

It seems that the British, who had declined fully to investigate so as not to offend the Russian government – though they did establish that he died from Polonium-210 poisoning — are reopening the case in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines mass murder.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow, is gratified: ”No matter how strong and powerful you are, truth will out in the end.”

We’ll see. The British government has until now agreed to keep quiet about what it knew so as not to offend Putin. I list some of the other Putin critics in my most recent column. Spoiler alert: Don’t sell life insurance to those who tell the truth about him.

David Cameron dragged feet over Litvinenko inquiry to protect Russia relations – widow

Marina Litvinenko claimed progress on investigation in to spy’s death slowed under Coalition because of attempts to befriend Russia
Tom Whitehead, Security Editor
Telegraph | 23 Jul 2014

David Cameron dragged his feet over a public inquiry in to the death of Alexander Litvinenko to protect relations with Russia, the poisoned dissident’s widow has claimed.

Marina Litvinenko said progress on the investigation in to the 2006 murder slowed after the Coalition came to power because the priority was about whether Russia could be part of the “West club”.

The claims will further fuel suggestions that the Government only finally conceded to a formal inquiry yesterday because relations with President Vladimir Putin have soured in the wake of the downing of Flight MH17.

Officials and Mrs Litvinenko insisted the decision was coincidental to the international outrage over Russia handling of the crisis in Ukraine but the decision came more than five months after a High Court ruling said Mrs May should consider an inquiry.

Mrs May yesterday said a public inquiry will replace the inquest in to Mr Litvinenko’s death, meaning that material can now be examined as to whether Russia was behind the murder.

Last year, when she refused a similar request, she admitted that "international relations" had played a part in the decision.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, who fled to Britain in 2000, was allegedly poisoned by radioactive polonium – 210 at a hotel in London in 2006.

His family and friends have always claimed that the Russian state ordered the killing.

Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard, and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects. Both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mrs Litvinenko said: “As it started I felt there was bigger progress in my case but after the election (2010) and the other became leader of Britain my case became a little bit slow.

“It was quite difficult for me to understand why. Everyone tried to help me by saying there was a relationship between Russia and Britain, trade, control of terrorism.

“It might be that the reference was different. The West tried to build Russia like a friend and of course they gave them every time this opportunity to show that Russia is a friend, that Russia is suitable for West club.

“They would say the case would never be closed but that relationship between these two countries was very important.”

Mrs Litvinenko said even if the inquiry found Russia culpable she did not expect the two suspects to ever be extradited while Putin was in office.

But Mr Lugovoi is an MP there and she hoped the inquiry would "send a message to the people of Russia" to "open their eyes to the truth" and their leaders’ "lies".

“Are they are OK that Andrei Lugovoi is a member of parliament. How is the person who is a suspect providing policy to this Russian citizen?” she said.

"After this is solved, there may be a new era in the relationship between Russia and the West."

The Government has long resisted calls for an inquiry and insisted that an inquest was adequate.

Ministers have been under pressure since last year when Sir Robert Owen, who was chairing the inquest, said he could not hold a "fair and fearless" investigation and that a public inquiry would be more appropriate.

The conflict centred on a ruling that material examining if the Russian state had a role in the murder or whether the UK could have prevented it was to be withheld from the hearing – material that could be considered in an inquiry albeit in private.

Sir Robert will now chair the inquiry.

However, although the inquiry will now look at apparent “prima facie evidence” that Russian was involved, it will not examine whether the UK could have done more to prevent the death.

Mrs Litvinenko said: “I am relieved and delighted with this decision. It sends a message to Sasha’s murderers: no matter how strong and powerful you are, truth will win out in the end and you will be held accountable for your crimes.”

Mrs May said in a written ministerial statement: “I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow."



Cold case: A renewed effort to discover the truth about Alexander Litvinenko’s death is both practically and politically motivated
The Independent | 22 July 2014

It is seven years, 34 weeks and four days since the fugitive Russian secret serviceman, Alexander Litvinenko, died a ghastly death in University College Hospital in London, after someone had dosed  him with radioactive polonium, allegedly while he was sipping tea with two fellow Russians in a London hotel.

His widow, Marina, and his friends never doubted that he was murdered because he was considered to have betrayed his former employers at the FSB, successor to the KGB, Russia’s secret service. In their campaign for justice, they had to accept long ago that there was no realistic chance of Litvinenko’s suspected killers being brought to trial. But they have at last, after all these years, been given hope that the British authorities will get to the bottom of this bizarre and horrible event, after the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced today that there is to be a formal inquiry into his death.

The decision is the right one, but the timing is – to put it politely – rather convenient, coming just four days after Flight MH17 was shot down.

The case has been an irritant in Russian-UK relations ever since a post-mortem examination uncovered the sensational cause of Litvinenko’s death. The Crown Prosecution Service has asked for two Russians, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, to be extradited. Both men deny killing Litvinenko and it is unlikely that either has ever lost a minute’s sleep worrying that they might end up in a British courtroom.

Lugovoy reacted to his extradition request in 2007 by contemptuously suggesting that the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, had “no brains”. The case made him a celebrity. In its wake, he was elected to the Duma. When Kovtun learnt that he too was subject to an extradition request, he lost no time spreading the news, as if he were greedy for a share of Lugovoy’s glory.

The inquest into Litvinenko’s death was also a frustrating, uncompleted affair, which has now been suspended. The law did not allow the coroner, Sir Robert Owen, to hear evidence in secret session, which meant that he could not delve into matters that may affect national security. Now that Sir Robert is heading a properly constituted inquiry, under the 2005 Inquiries Act, he will be able to examine British intelligence officers on what they know about who may have had the motive and the means to kill Litvinenko.

Moreover, witnesses will be able to give their evidence free from any fear that they will open themselves to criticism for not protecting the fugitive. Ms May has decided in advance that nobody could have foreseen that Litvinenko might be murdered on British soil, and has told Sir Robert not to stretch his inquiry into passing judgment on whether more should have been done to protect him.

Marina Litvinenko has had to fight long and hard to get to where we are now. That included obtaining a High Court ruling in February that the Home Office was wrong to refuse to open an inquiry while the never-ending inquest still hung in the air.

There may be some legitimate, bureaucratic reason that this welcome announcement of an inquiry should be made exactly as British-Russian relations hit a new nadir – but it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the Government has chosen this as one more way to deliver a message that the West is losing patience with renegade Russians.



Litvinenko: ministers accused of protecting Russia over death
Ministers have been accused of “colluding” with Russia to hide the truth behind the murder of Alexander Litvinenko after refusing to hold a public inquiry
Tom Whitehead, and Hannah El-Hawary
Telegraph | 12 Jul 2013

The British Government has rejected a formal request from coroner Sir Robert Owen to replace his inquest with a public inquiry.

Sir Robert fears he cannot properly investigate the death because a ruling on secret evidence means he cannot examine material relating to whether the Russian state was involved.

A public inquiry could look at such material in private but ministers have now refused to hold one.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, a former KGB agent, was poisoned with radioactive polonium – 210 while drinking tea at a central London hotel in 2006.

His widow Marina, who has also called for a public inquiry, said the rejection was a “political decision”, adding: “Were they trying to protect the Russian state? Were they trying to protect national security secrets?"

Alex Goldfarb, a family friend, added: “It’s absolutely transparent that the Russian government is behind this murder.

"The evidence has been seen by the Coroner and the courts.

"There’s prima facie evidence that the Russian government is behind it.

"There’s some sort of collusion behind the scenes with Her Majesty’s Government and the Kremlin to obstruct justice."

Elena Tsirlina, Mrs Litvinenko’s solicitor, said the decision not to hold a public inquiry followed "months of talks between the two governments at the highest level" between the prime ministers of both Russia and Britain.

She said: "What deals have been made behind the scene is difficult to know."

An ex – KGB agent, Mr Litvinenko fled to Britain in 2000. Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard, and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects. Both deny any involvement.

Mr Litvinenko’s family believe he was working for MI6 at the time of his death and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

Sir Robert criticised the Government for only making the decision on a public inquiry this morning and warned the start of the formal inquest, originally scheduled for October, would now be pushed further back.

He said the Government’s decision meant it had not given any weight to his concerns over his limitations in conducting a full and fair investigation in to the death.

Ben Emmerson QC, representing Mrs Litvinenko, told the hearing that the Government had shown an "utter lack of professionalism" with the way it had handled the request.

"The repeated catalogue of broken promises is a sign of something gone awry," Mr Emmerson said.

Mr Emmerson told the hearing that the family would like to see a judicial review into the decision not to hold a public inquiry on the grounds of "irrationality".

Mrs Litvinenko vowed to fight on despite the latest set back.

A Government spokesman said: "We believe that the coroner’s inquest can continue to effectively investigate the circumstance of Mr Litivenko’s death and we will continue to cooperate fully with it.”

How the MH17 crisis helped reopen the case of a poisoned former KGB spy

Griff Witte
The Washington Post | July 22, 2014

Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy, photographed at his home in London in 2002, left, and in a hospital bed in London on Nov. 20, 2006. He died Nov. 23, 2006. (Alistair Fuller/AP; Reuters)

LONDON — The killing of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko began with a poison-laced cup of tea and ended 25 days later with an excruciating death in a London hospital.

Nearly eight years have passed since then, and much about Litvinenko’s killing remains a mystery. Who exactly killed the spy-turned-whistleblower? More important: On whose orders, and why?

On Tuesday, there was new and unexpected hope that some of those mysteries will finally be solved.

The hope came in the form of a U-turn from the British government, which has long blocked a full public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death but on Tuesday said it would allow the investigation to go forward.

Litvinenko’s widow has alleged that British authorities didn’t want anyone digging into the case because they feared that it would upset Russian President Vladimir Putin. The British government acknowledged as much last year, saying that “international relations” had been a factor in decision-making around the case.

But Putin’s wrath is not such a concern anymore, now that British Prime Minister David Cameron is calling for Europe to hit Russia hard with new sanctions after last week’s downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. Cameron and others in the West have blamed the crash on Russian-backed rebels.

British officials stressed Tuesday that the timing of the Litvinenko decision and the push to punish Moscow were entirely unrelated.

But few in London believed that.

Details about the killing of Litvinenko have long been seen here as deep, dark secrets with the potential to embarrass both London and Moscow. Litvinenko had fled to London in 2000 after becoming an outspoken critic of his former employer, the Russian domestic intelligence service. His widow has said that he was working for Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, at the time of his death at age 43 from exposure to radioactive polonium.

The two Russians who sipped tea with Litvinenko at a posh London hotel before he fell ill have been named as prime suspects in his killing. But they deny involvement and remain in Russia.

Until now, the investigation has been prohibited from considering evidence that the Russian government played a role in the killing. But after Tuesday’s decision, that will change.

“It is more than 7 years since Mr. Litvinenko’s death, and I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow Mrs. Litvinenko,” Home Secretary Theresa May said in a written statement to Parliament.

Marina Litvinenko, who has long campaigned for the facts of her husband’s killing to be brought to light, celebrated Tuesday’s about-face, saying she was “relieved and delighted.”

“No matter how strong and powerful you are,” she said in a written statement, “truth will win out in the end.”



Litvinenko Public Inquiry: Why Announce It Now?
As Russian relations deteriorate, sources admit announcing a public inquiry into the ex-KGB spy’s death now is "bad timing".
Anushka Asthana, Political Correspondent
Sky News | 22 July 2014

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told us yesterday that "diplomatic activity" was under way "at all levels" to try to persuade EU countries to ramp up sanctions against Russia.

The tragic case of flight MH17 has brought East-West relations to a new low: negotiations that take place in the next few days and weeks will inevitably be sensitive.

A strange moment, then, to shine a torch on a previous diplomatic entanglement.

That was the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London – as a result of radiation poisoning.

It happened after he had met two other former agents for tea. When Britain demanded that a key suspect be extradited, Russia refused.

Now the Home Office has announced a public inquiry into the circumstances of the death, chaired by senior judge Sir Robert Owen.

The question that hovers over this decision is – why now?

Mr Litvinenko was killed almost eight years ago, and the Government has long resisted an inquiry.

Sources admit it is "bad timing" but insist there is no conspiracy. They point to a High Court ruling back in February, following a judicial review by Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina. It said there was a pressing need for an inquiry. So the Government had to act.

But it did so slowly.

Today was its final opportunity, according to the source, because it is the day that Parliament breaks up – and given the ruling it would be inappropriate to wait until after the summer.

Arguably, the Home Office is trying to keep the announcement low profile – with a written rather than spoken statement. But inevitably the policy has already become news.

Officials will be hoping that it might slip under Russia’s radar until the inquiry itself reports.

When that happens it is likely to cause another round of recriminations – especially as one of the two suspects is now an MP and Russia is likely to continue to resist any extradition.

Key Dates Leading Up To Litvinenko Inquiry

Updated: 12:08pm UK, Tuesday 22 July 2014

A public inquiry into the death of poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko has been announced by the Government.

Here are the key events leading up to the announcement.

::  October 2000 – Alexander Litvinenko and his family flee Russia, despite an order telling him not to leave Moscow.

::  November 2000 – the former spy asks for asylum at Heathrow Airport.

::  May 14, 2001 – the UK grants him political asylum.

::  November 1, 2006 – Mr Litvinenko is taken ill after having tea with former agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun at a hotel in London.

::  November 23, 2006 – the ex-KGB officer dies of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210.

::  May 22, 2007 – Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald decides there is enough evidence to charge prime suspect Mr Lugovoi over Mr Litvinenko’s death – he subsequently denied involvement, accusing Mr Litvinenko of being a British spy.

::  July 2007 – Russia refuses to extradite Mr Lugovoi on the grounds that it is against the Russian constitution to extradite someone without firm evidence.

:: October 2011 – A London coroner announces

::  May/June 2013 – The inquest is put on hold as the coroner says a public inquiry would be better.

::  July 2013 – The British Government rules out public inquiry.

::  February 2014 – Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, wins a seven-year fight to force a public inquiry when the High Court backs her case.

::  July 22, 2014 – Home Secretary Theresa May announces a public inquiry is to be held, saying she "hopes it will be of some comfort to his widow".

Litvinenko Death: Public Inquiry To Be Held

Marina Litvinenko says "the truth will win out" as the Government announces a public inquiry into the death of the ex-Russian spy
Sky News | 22 July 2014

Alexander Litvinenko’s Widow Denies Inquiry Link With MH17

The widow of poisoned ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko says she is "relieved and delighted" that there will be a public inquiry into his death.

Marina Litvinenko said the Government’s announcement there would be a full investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death sent a message to his killers that "no matter how strong and powerful you are, the truth will win out in the end".

Home Secretary Theresa May outlined the terms of the public inquiry in a written statement.

Investigators will now be able to examine whether his killing was a Russian state-ordered assassination, as has been suggested.

Marina Litvinenko had been fighting for a public inquiry

Mr Litvinenko was poisoned by a cup of tea laced with the deadly radioactive element polonium-210 during a meeting at a London hotel in 2006 with two former Russian agents. He died three weeks later.

Mrs Litvinenko has fought for a public inquiry into his death ever since, but the Government refused on the grounds it wanted to wait for the outcome of an inquest into his death.

Mrs May said in her statement: "I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow."

The Litvinenko affair has caused significant diplomatic ructions between Britain and Russia. Police have asked for the arrests of two prime suspects, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, but the Kremlin has refused.

The announcement of an inquiry could not have come at a worse time for Britain’s increasingly frayed relationship with Russia as tensions between the two countries intensify over Vladimir Putin’s handling of the Ukraine air disaster.

Sky’s political correspondent Anushka Asthana said: "Sources admit it is ‘bad timing’ but insist there is no conspiracy. They point to a High Court ruling back in February, following a judicial review by Mr Litvinenko’s widow. It said there was a pressing need for an inquiry. So the Government had to act.

"But it did so slowly. Today was its final opportunity, according to the source, because it is the day that Parliament breaks up – and given the ruling it would be inappropriate to wait until after the summer."

Mr Litvinenko fled Russia in 2000 and was granted asylum in Britain. His widow claims he was working for MI6 at the time of his death after meeting Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square.

Last year, Sir Robert Owen, who was conducting the inquest and would now chair the inquiry, said he could not hold a "fair and fearless" investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s death because the Government refused to release information on Russian and British intelligence involvement.

He had said a public inquiry would be the best way to proceed.

Mr Lugovoi, who is now a Russian MP, withdrew his cooperation with the inquest in 2013, accusing the British Government of a cover-up.

He has always denied murdering Mr Litvinenko, but has admitted meeting him shortly before his death, however, traces of radiation at key locations on his route from Moscow to London were found.



Alexander Litvinenko death: UK announces public inquiry
An inquiry is to be held into the death of Alexander Litvinenko
BBC | 22 July 2014

A public inquiry will be held into the death of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, the UK Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.

Mr Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who became a British citizen, died in 2006 in a London hospital after he was poisoned with radioactive polonium.

The investigation will examine whether the Russian state was behind his death.

Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, said she was "relieved and delighted", saying the "truth will win out in the end".

Announcing the inquiry, Mrs May said she hoped it would be of "some comfort" to Mrs Litvinenko.

The inquiry will be chaired by senior judge Sir Robert Owen, who was the coroner at Mr Litvinenko’s inquest last year.

Sir Robert delayed the inquest and called for a public inquiry because the inquest could not consider sensitive evidence because of national security fears.

That inquiry will now go ahead, with much of the evidence in public but some closed sessions for sensitive evidence.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died after he was poisoned with radioactive polonium while drinking tea with two Russian men, one a former KGB officer, at a London hotel.

His family believes he was working for MI6 at the time and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

Speaking at a press conference, Mrs Litvinenko – who had legally challenged the government’s earlier decision not to hold a public inquiry – said she had pursued the case "for justice", adding: "I did this for truth."

One of the suspects, Andrei Lugovoi, told the Russian Interfax news agency the decision to launch an inquiry was "the height of cynicism".

In May 2007, the UK said Mr Lugovoi – now a politician in Russia – should be charged with the murder of Mr Litvinenko. Russia refused to extradite Mr Lugovoi, who denies any involvement.

Lugovoi, who denies any involvement.


Analysis from BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera

Until now, the government has steadfastly resisted holding a public inquiry.

That was because there are layers of secrets surrounding the death of Alexander Litvinenko. This is thought to include secret intelligence that may relate to whether the Russian state was responsible for his murder.

There are also secrets about Mr Litvinenko’s own relationship with MI6. The government demanded all these secrets be kept out of an inquest.

But the former Russian security officer’s widow has fought a long legal battle to get to the truth.

A public inquiry will now look at where responsibility lies for the death although it does not look as if it will look at whether his relationship with MI6 means that more should be done to have protected him.

Lawyers for Mrs Litvinenko had claimed that the issue of state responsibility was being closed down precisely to try to improve relations with Russia.

If so, then changing times may explain a government’s change of heart. And so we may get one step closer to finding out who was behind a radioactive murder on the streets of London.


The inquiry’s remit will include finding out "where responsibility for the death lies" and making "appropriate recommendations".

But because there was no evidence before the death to suggest Mr Litvinenko was in danger, the inquiry would not examine whether UK authorities "could or should have taken steps" to protect him, the government said.

A Downing Street spokesman said Sir Robert would have the jurisdiction to demand the production of both witnesses – including security agents – and documents from the security and intelligence services.

But the spokesman said the inquiry, which is due to begin on 31 July and conclude by the end of 2015, would have no such powers in relation to evidence from Russia.


The Litvinenko case

  • 1 Nov 2006 – Alexander Litvinenko has tea with former agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun in London
  • 4 Nov 2006 – After three days of vomiting he is admitted to hospital, and dies 22 days later. His death is attributed to radiation poisoning
  • May 2007 – The UK decides Mr Lugovoi should be charged with the murder of Mr Litvinenko. He denies any involvement but says Mr Litvinenko was a British spy
  • 5 Jul 2007 – Russia officially refuses to extradite Mr Lugovoi, prompting a diplomatic row
  • 20 Sept 2012 – Pre-inquest review hears that Russia’s links to the death will be probed
  • May-June 2013 – Inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death delayed as coroner decides a public inquiry would be preferable
  • Jan 2014 – Marina Litvinenko in High Court fight to force a public inquiry
  • 11 Feb 2014 – High Court says the Home Office had been wrong to rule out an inquiry before the outcome of an inquest


Former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald said: "This was a particularly foul murder; the infliction of a slow, lingering radioactive death."

He said Mr Litvinenko was "under the protection" of Britain at the time, and if Russia was involved the inquiry would "expose that".

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Whitehall sources had told him the timing of the announcement – coming at the same time as the fallout from the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine – was "a coincidence".

Western leaders have accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine, who they believe shot down flight MH17 with a ground-to-air missile.