News / Europe

    Britain Does U-turn on ex-KGB Agent Litvinenko Murder Inquiry

    FILE - Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within" photographed at his home in London, May 10, 2002.FILE - Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within" photographed at his home in London, May 10, 2002.
    x
    FILE - Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within" photographed at his home in London, May 10, 2002.
    FILE - Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within" photographed at his home in London, May 10, 2002.
    Reuters

    Britain on Tuesday overturned its decision not to hold a public inquiry into the death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder from his London deathbed in 2006.

    A year ago, the British government rejected a request for an inquiry into the killing of Litvinenko, who died after drinking tea poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a plush London hotel, leading to accusations it wanted to appease the Kremlin which has always denied any involvement in the death.

    The reversal of that decision comes as Prime Minister David Cameron leads calls for hard-hitting sanctions against Russia, including freezing the assets of Putin's close allies, after the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 in Ukraine last week.

    Cameron's office would not comment on the timing of the announcement but sources told the BBC it was a coincidence, coming on the day before parliament rose for its summer break.

    An inquiry may well strain Anglo-Russian relations further, having mirrored diplomatic ties between the two for years.

    “It is more than seven years since Litvinenko's death, and I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow,” Britain's interior minister Theresa May.

    The inquiry would be chaired by judge Robert Owen, who was the coroner in charge of an inquest into Litvinenko's death, and who has said there was evidence indicating Russian involvement in the murder, Home Secretary May said in a statement.

    Owen himself had called for an inquiry saying an inquest - a British legal process held in cases of violent or unnatural deaths - could not get to the truth because he could not consider secret evidence held by the British government.

    Post-cold war low

    Relations between the countries fell to a post-Cold War low following the death of the 43-year-old Kremlin critic who had been granted British citizenship. He died days after being poisoned with polonium-210.

    British police and prosecutors have said there was enough evidence to charge former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun with murder, but Moscow refused to extradite them, and Lugovoy, who denied involvement, was later elected a lawmaker.

    After Cameron took power in 2010, he made a concerted effort to improve relations, with an eye on strengthening trade links.

    When May rejected calls for an inquiry last year, she admitted she had taken into account the interests of Anglo-Russian relations, but said it had not been the main factor.

    However, it led to accusations from Litvinenko's family that the government was covering up what their lawyers described as “state-sponsored nuclear terrorism” to protect the Kremlin.

    Litvinenko's widow Marina launched a legal challenge and, in February, London's High Court quashed May's decision and told her to reconsider the issue.

    In his formal submission to the High Court as coroner, Owen wrote that the secret evidence did “establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.

    Hearings ahead of the inquest also heard that Litvinenko had been working for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, for a number of years.

    Marina Litvinenko said she was “relieved and delighted”.

    “It sends a message to Sasha's (her husband'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,” she said in a statement.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Marcus
    July 22, 2014 1:47 PM
    David Cameron and the British Government thank you for your stance on transparency and upholding justice. Absolutely commendable.

    by: Anonymous
    July 22, 2014 12:29 PM
    Eight years have passed by from that time, and Putin has still been in power.

    by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
    July 22, 2014 10:00 AM
    It is disgusting when the justice was a hostage to political and commercial conjuncture. The British government has become a captive to political winds, for seven years withheld justice and denied facts. But who will believe in the sincerity of the government this time as it turned out to be that Aesop’s boy who cried/did not cry “Wolf”?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora