Spies could be compelled to give evidence to Litvinenko inquest

 

British and Russian spies could be compelled to give evidence at the inquest into the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died from radioactive poisoning after meeting former contacts for tea at a London hotel in 2006.

The inquest into the controversial death of Mr Litvinenko, 43, is due to be held next year. At a preparatory hearing today, lawyers for his widow, Marina, called for both MI6 and the FSB – the KGB’s successor – to be invited to participate.

The hearing, before High Court judge Sir Robert Owen, was told that both the British and Russian governments appeared reluctant to cooperate fully. Hugh Davies, counsel for the coroner’s legal team, said Britain had been asked to disclose documents in January but they were not made available until the end of August.

Neil Garnham QC, representing the Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the Home Office would act as an “umbrella organisation” to coordinate information for other government departments including the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, MI6, MI5, Health Protection Agency, Ministry of Defence and Serious Organised Crime Agency.

The hearing was told that the Russian government had not taken up an invitation to participate. Maya Sikand, representing Mrs Litvinenko, said the invitation should be extended to the FSB, adding: “What also should be considered is whether MI6 should be invited to apply to be so designated.”

The case was adjourned until next month, when a hearing will decide the scope of the inquest. The alleged involvement of Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, former KGB contacts who met Mr Litvinenko on the day in question, is expected to be examined. Both have denied involvement.

Mr Davies added that the coroner would have to decide whether the inquest also had a duty to investigate the possible culpability of the Russian state “and the possible culpability of the British state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko – either in itself carrying out, or by its agents, the poisoning. Or by failing to take reasonable steps to protect Mr Litvinenko from a real and immediate risk to his life.”

The inquest may also look into a “number of competing and increasingly controversial theories” as to who else may have been involved, including Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, the Spanish mafia, Chechen groups, Italian academic Mario Scaramella and Alexander Talik, a close associate of Mr Lugovoi.

Mrs Litvinenko said she simply wanted the truth. “I believe it is important, not just for me and my family and friends, but it is very important for the two countries, for Russia and England. This relationship is quite difficult and I believe people need to know what happened,” she said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'