Judge challenges Russia over Litvinenko death
by Jack Roland
Fri 01 Aug 2014
Authorities in the Russian Federation must answer questions over Alexander Litvinenko’s death, according to a British judge.
Speaking at the opening of a public inquiry into the 2006 killing, Coroner Sir Robert Owen said that allegations of Russian involvement had to be investigated, but that there was no evidence that British agents could have caused or prevented the homicide.
The victim’s widow Marina Litvinenko won a court battle earlier this year for a public inquiry to be held. It will complement an ongoing inquest, which cannot assign blame for the death. Mrs Litvinenko praised the court for ensuring that the “truth (would) win out in the end.”
Former federal security and KGB agent Litvinenko was critical of the Russian government. He co-operated with the British intelligence service MI6 and became a British subject in the months before his death at the age of 43. He died of radiation poisoning caused by polonium-210, for which he blamed president Vladimir Putin.
One of the prime suspects is former agent Andrei Lugovoi, who is now a nationalist member of the Russian parliament. Lugovoi and his co-accused Dmitry Kovtun will not attend court as Russia’s constitution bans the extradition of citizens.
Some of the evidence and parts of the court’s conclusion will be withheld from the public as they are politically sensitive. The Russian ambassador to Britain, Aleksandr Yakovenko, has refused to accept any verdict reached using undisclosed evidence.
The British government has denied that the inquiry is connected to the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine a fortnight ago.
Litvinenko’s brother Maksim described the inquiry and heightening sanctions against Russia as ‘a big PR campaign against the Russian government and its president in particular’ in an interview with the Russian external broadcaster RT. ‘I’m not buying this as a coincidence,’ he said.