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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
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 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 Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid