The widow of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko has told the inquiry into his death that she has not spoken to his father since he branded him a “traitor”.
Marina Litvinenko started her evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London today as she described how the couple first met in 1993 and his early career with the KGB, including work with an anti-terrorist unit and a secret unit called URPO.
Mr Litvinenko, 43, died at University College Hospital nearly three weeks after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 while meeting two Russian men - one a former KGB officer – at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.
His family believes he was working for MI6 at the time and was killed in November 2006 on the orders of the Kremlin.
Former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects in the killing, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.
Sat with an interpreter in the witness box, Mrs Litvinenko, 52, said she had not spoken to her father-in-law Valter Litvinenko since he gave an interview on Russian television two years ago in which he branded his son a “traitor”.
She said: “Two years ago he said he didn’t know Sasha (Alexander) worked for MI6. He thought he is a big traitor and he wanted to ask Putin to get him back to Russia.
“What he said before was absolutely the opposite.
“When I heard this, it was absolutely shocking.”
Mrs Litvinenko fought for the inquiry after chairman Sir Robert Owen said he could not hold a “fair and fearless” investigation as part of an inquest, and a public inquiry should take place instead.
The Government previously resisted launching an inquiry, instead saying it would “wait and see” what a judge-led inquest found, but the High Court ruled the Home Secretary should reconsider the decision.
Although Mrs Litvinenko and her lawyers will not be able to see secret material, the chairman can take it into account, unlike in an inquest.
The inquiry has already been told that the post-mortem examination on Mr Litvinenko was “one of the most dangerous ever undertaken in the western world”.
Home Office forensic pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary said Mr Litvinenko’s radioactive body was “very hazardous” and was transferred to a secure site for tests.
During the post-mortem examination, Dr Cary and his colleagues wore two white safety suits, protective gloves taped at the sleeves and specialised hoods into which air was piped through a filter.