Britain - Russia

London court examines Russia's alleged involvement in Litvinenko death

Alexander Litvinenko, File 2006.
Alexander Litvinenko, File 2006. AFP

In the UK, a public inquiry into the death of former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko gets underway in London on Tuesday. Litvinenko died after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison in 2006. The inquiry will notably look at whether the Russian state was behind the killing.


This public inquiry into the death of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko begins on Tuesday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

In November 2006, Litvinenko, who was living in exile with his family in Britain, met with two former KGB contacts, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, at a central London Hotel and with hours became violently ill.

He died three weeks later.

It was revealed that the spy had died from ingesting the rare radioactive isotope Polonium 210 and from his death bed Litvinenko publicly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin for being responsible for his death.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service have named Lugovoi and Kovtun as the prime suspects.

Both deny the charges and Russia refuses their extradition.

Tuesday’s hearing follows an eight-year legal battle by Litvinenko’s widow Marina with the British government who initially refused to hold a public enquiry, citing diplomatic concerns.

But in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, the British Home Secretary Theresa May reversed the decision in July last year.

Marina Litvinenko has called the crime against her husband, "an act of state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London."

Litvinenko’s supporters argue that he was assassinated due to his investigations into corruption by Russian officials at the highest level.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement, instead pointing the finger at the British security services, for which Litvinenko was allegedly working at the time of his death, or his associate the billionaire oligarch and Putin nemesis Boris Berezovsky, who was found dead at his Surrey home in 2013 in mysterious circumstances.

The public hearings are expected to continue for ten weeks, with testimonies from the Litvinenko family, the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office and atomic weapons experts.

A significant part of the hearings will be held in private for security reasons.

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