Murdered spy’s widow says inquiry not sparked by Ukraine crisis

The widow of murdered spy Alexander Litvinenko said she does not believe a public inquiry into his death has been sparked by international tension with Russia.

The 43-year-old Russian, known as Sasha to his loved ones, died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 with two former colleagues at a London hotel in 2006.

Mrs Litvinenko said: “I am relieved and delighted with this decision. It sends a message to Sasha’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.

“It has taken nearly eight years to bring those culpable for Sasha’s murder to justice. I look forward to the day when the truth behind my husband’s murder is revealed for the whole world to see.”

The move will mean investigators can probe whether the Russian state was behind his murder.

The British government has until now resisted launching a public inquiry, and instead said it would “wait and see” what a judge-led inquest found.

Marina Litvinenko insisted that the probe would have happened anyway without pressures over Ukraine. She said she has not fought for a public inquiry as a move against Britain or Russia, but for the truth. “I’ve done this for justice, I’ve done this for truth. I would like to show people you are able to get justice in any difficult situation.”

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.

Mrs Litvinenko believes that they will never face extradition to Britain.

Solicitor Elena Tsirlina said: “The advantage of having a public inquiry is the material that could not be disclosed as part of the inquest can now be seen by the chair of the inquiry and he will be able to take it into account, although that material will not be publicly disclosed.”

Mrs Litvinenko fought for the probe into her husband’s murder after a coroner said he could not hold a “fair and fearless” investigation as part of an inquest, and a public inquiry should take place instead.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced the probe in a written ministerial statement: “I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow.”

The move means investigators can probe whether the Russian state was behind the murder, but it will not look at whether British authorities could have prevented his death.


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