News / Europe

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

FILE - Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book 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
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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More