Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Litvinenko widow hails coroner vow

Alexander Litvinenko died in London's University College Hospital on November 23, 2006

The widow of murdered Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko has welcomed a coroner's pledge to carry out a wide-ranging investigation into her husband's death.

St Pancras coroner Dr Andrew Reid said the former KGB agent's inquest should have a broad scope and announced he would ask the Metropolitan Police and intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 to carry out further inquiries.

Mr Litvinenko's widow, Marina, said this decision was "very important" to her because it meant the inquest would examine allegations that the Russian state was involved in the killing.

A pre-inquest review at St Pancras Coroner's Court in north London heard that the Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering a new file of evidence about the case submitted by police in August.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, fell ill shortly after drinking tea during a meeting at a West End hotel with former KGB contacts and died in London's University College Hospital on November 23 2006.

British prosecutors have named fellow ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy as the main suspect in his murder, but the Russian authorities have repeatedly refused to send him to face trial in the UK.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev insisted during a visit to Moscow by Prime Minister David Cameron last month that Mr Lugovoy - now a Russian MP - would never be extradited to Britain. Mr Lugovoy, who denies all involvement, suggested through his lawyer that Mr Litvinenko may have killed himself.

Ben Emmerson QC, for Mrs Litvinenko, strongly rejected these suggestions. He said: "Did Russia murder Litvinenko is a question that this inquest, if it is going to do anything in the public interest, has got to be in a position to answer."

Mr Emmerson said the poisoning of Mr Litvinenko using radioactive polonium-210 was a case of "nuclear terrorism on the streets of London".

Speaking outside court after the hearing, Mrs Litvinenko said: "I was waiting for this almost five years since my husband died. Today I actually received a very important decision. The coroner has said there will be a wide inquest into my husband's death. It will therefore include an investigation into the involvement of the Russian state in his murder, which is exactly what I want."

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