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Widow of poisoned Alexander Litvinenko wins battle for inquest

By Terri Judd in London

Alexander Litvinenko's widow won her battle yesterday for an open investigation to establish whether her husband was killed by Russian agents.

Mr Litvinenko (43) fell ill after a meeting with fellow former KGB contacts in what was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210. The Russian, who had been granted asylum in Britain, died three weeks later, on November 23, 2006.

British attempts to extradite former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy for questioning in relation to the murder have so far been frustrated. During a meeting last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told British Prime Minister David Cameron that Mr Lugovoy, now a MP, would never be sent to the UK.

Yesterday St Pancras coroner Dr Andrew Reid said he would be writing to MI5, MI6 and the police to request that they prepare for further investigations.

"This was a very important day for me," Marina Litvinenko, pictured left, said after the hearing. The coroner has said there will be a wide-ranging inquest into my husband's death. It will, therefore, include an investigation into the Russian state's involvement in his murder, which is exactly what I want."

In an extraordinary turn of events yesterday, barristers for Ms Litvinenko and Mr Lugovoy agreed during a pre-inquest hearing that the inquiry should have a broad scope and involve a senior judge and jury, while representatives for the British government argued that such a wide remit was unnecessary.

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