News / Europe

Litvinenko Inquest Attorney: Russia Most Likely Involved in Poisoning

Marina Litvinenko wears a scarf in support of jailed Russian political prisoners, as she leaves a hearing into the death of her husband, Alexander Litvinenko, in London, November 2, 2012.
Marina Litvinenko wears a scarf in support of jailed Russian political prisoners, as she leaves a hearing into the death of her husband, Alexander Litvinenko, in London, November 2, 2012.
Reuters
The Russian government was most likely involved in the murder by poisoning of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, a British lawyer told a preliminary hearing Thursday into the death.

The statement by Hugh Davies, an attorney acting on behalf of the inquest, is likely to enrage Russia, which has denied any involvement in the killing, and could put further strain on London's already testy relations with Moscow.

The London court also heard the former KGB agent was working for Britain's MI6 secret service when he died, suggesting the British government might come under scrutiny for failing to protect him.

Kremlin adversary

Litvinenko, who had been granted British citizenship and become a vocal critic of the Kremlin, died after someone slipped polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope, into his cup of tea at a London hotel.

"Our assessment is that the [British] government material does establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko,'' Davies said at Thursday's hearing, held to discuss the scope of the full inquiry into Litvinenko's death.

British police and prosecutors say there is enough evidence to charge two former KGB agents, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, but Moscow has resisted calls to extradite them.

A Kremlin spokesman and the Russian foreign ministry both declined comment and there was no reaction from either Lugovoy or Kovtun.

KGB suspect

Russian officials have said the British focus on Lugovoy as the suspect stems from what it sees as London's anti-Russian bias and that Britain has failed to provide enough evidence.

The inquest is the latest twist in Britain's complicated ties with Russia. The two are at odds over Moscow's human rights record and foreign policy, with spy rows and tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions dominating relations.

The full inquest into Litvinenko's death, led by Judge Robert Owen, is expected to start on May 1.

M16 duties

Ben Emmerson, lawyer for Litvinenko's widow, Marina, told the hearing the victim had been working for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, for a number of years.

He said Litvinenko was employed by the Spanish security services and the couple had payments from both MI6 and Spanish intelligence agencies in their joint bank account.

"At the time of his death, Mr Litvinenko had been for a number of years a registered and paid agent and employee of MI6, with a dedicated handler whose pseudonym was 'Martin,''' Emmerson said.

Litvinenko would often tell his wife about the meetings he had with "Martin," which normally would take place in central London, Emmerson said. He said the MI6 role meant "dangerous" missions for Litvinenko. That revelation suggested that the British government had a duty to ensure his safety.

Phone call to Lugovoy

Adding further intrigue, he said Litvinenko called Lugovoy in 2006 from a London hospital just months before he died to cancel a trip to Spain where the two had planned to give evidence to Spanish prosecutors assessing Russian mafia activities and links to the Kremlin.

Emmerson said ``Martin'' had to appear before the inquest as he was ``a critical witness on all issues."

He described the death as a ``state sponsored assassination'' and suggested the Russian state would seek ``interested party'' status, meaning it would have legal representation at the inquest and access to relevant documents.

Litvinenko was an associate of tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider who became a critic of President Vladimir Putin and was granted asylum in Britain.

Floating various theories

Some in Russia, where Berezovsky is an unpopular figure often mocked on state TV, have pointed figures at the exiled oligarch. But Hugo Keith, Berezovsky's lawyer, denied any involvement by his client.

"It's not open to an individual to get Polonium-210. The suggestion that Mr. Berezovsky is responsible is implausible,'' Keith said.

Davies said the secret British documents also showed no compelling evidence against Berezovsky, or against Chechen mafia or other figures who have been suggested as being involved.

He also said there was no prima facie evidence to suggest Britain had been involved in Litvinenko' death or failed to protect him.

Under British law, an inquest is held when a person dies unexpectedly to determine the cause of death.

Marina, who had been campaigning for an inquest for years, said she was hopeful. "It has already been six years,'' she said outside the court. ``I'm looking forward to see and to know.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid