UK & World News

  • 22 July 2014, 17:21

Litvinenko Death: Public Inquiry To Be Held

The widow of poisoned ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko says she is "relieved and delighted" that there will be a public inquiry into his death.

Marina Litvinenkosaid the Government's announcement there would be a full investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death sent a message to his killers that "no matter how strong and powerful you are, the truth will win out in the end".

Home Secretary Theresa May outlined the terms of the public inquiry in a written statement.

Investigators will now be able to examine whether his killing was a Russian state-ordered assassination, as has been suggested.

Mr Litvinenko was poisoned by a cup of tea laced with the deadly radioactive element polonium-210 during a meeting at a London hotel in 2006 with two former Russian agents. He died three weeks later.

Mrs Litvinenko has fought for a public inquiry into his death ever since, but the Government refused on the grounds it wanted to wait for the outcome of an inquest into his death.

Mrs May said in her statement: "I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow."

The Litvinenko affair has caused significant diplomatic ructions between Britain and Russia. Police have asked for the arrests of two prime suspects, Andrei Lugovoi and DmitriKovtun, but the Kremlin has refused.

The announcement of an inquiry could not have come at a worse time for Britain's increasingly frayed relationship with Russia as tensions between the two countries intensify over Vladimir Putin's handling of the Ukraine air disaster.

Sky's political correspondent Anushka Asthana said: "Sources admit it is 'bad timing' but insist there is no conspiracy. They point to a High Court ruling back in February, following a judicial review by Mr Litvinenko's widow. It said there was a pressing need for an inquiry. So the Government had to act.

"But it did so slowly. Today was its final opportunity, according to the source, because it is the day that Parliament breaks up - and given the ruling it would be inappropriate to wait until after the summer."

Mr Litvinenko fled Russia in 2000 and was granted asylum in Britain. His widow claims he was working for MI6 at the time of his death after meeting Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square.

Last year, Sir Robert Owen, who was conducting the inquest and would now chair the inquiry, said he could not hold a "fair and fearless" investigation into Mr Litvinenko's death because the Government refused to release information on Russian and British intelligence involvement.

He had said a public inquiry would be the best way to proceed.

Mr Lugovoi, who is now a Russian MP, withdrew his cooperation with the inquest in 2013, accusing the British Government of a cover-up.

He has always denied murdering Mr Litvinenko, but has admitted meeting him shortly before his death, however, traces of radiation at key locations on his route from Moscow to London were found.

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