Public inquiry into Litvinenko death announced

Ex-spy’s widow says move sends message to killers that ‘truth will win out’

The British government is expected to announce today that a public inquiry will be held into the death of poisoned ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.  Photograph: PA.

The British government is expected to announce today that a public inquiry will be held into the death of poisoned ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Photograph: PA.

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 10:51

The British government has announce today that a public inquiry will be held into the death of poisoned ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Mystery has surrounded the death of the former KGB officer since he died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 with two ex colleagues at a London hotel in 2006.

British home secretary Theresa May confirmed the move adding: “I very much hope that this inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow.”

Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, said she is “relieved and delighted” that a public inquiry is to be held, and that it sends a message to his killers that “no matter how strong and powerful you are, truth will win out in the end”.

It will mean investigators can look into 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.

But Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina challenged this and the high dourt ruled the home secretary must reconsider its decision.

The move is likely anger Russian president Vladimir Putin at a time when relations are strained in the aftermath of the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Ukraine.

The Daily Telegraph said that Mrs May will tell say that a public inquiry will take over from the inquest.

Mr Litvinenko (43) who fled to Britain in 2000, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea with 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 on the orders of the Kremlin.

Former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.

Ministers have been under pressure since last year when Sir Robert Owen, who was conducting the inquest, said he could not hold a “fair and fearless” investigation.

PA