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Russian spy case details may be made public

Litvinenko died in November 2006 after ingesting polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope that was secretly slipped into his tea at a London hotel.

The grave of Alexander Litvinenko in Highgate Cemetery in north London
The grave of Alexander Litvinenko in Highgate Cemetery in north London
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A BRITISH INQUEST into the killing of Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko may make public previously unreleased details about the murder investigation, a lawyer said Friday.

The case brims with international intrigue. Litvinenko died in November 2006 after ingesting polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope that was secretly slipped into his tea at a London hotel. The Kremlin was blamed for his death, which brought relations between Moscow and London to a post-Cold War low as the two countries engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.

Wide-raging evidence

On Friday, inquest lawyer Hugh Davies said the evidence would include surveillance footage, crime scene evidence, medical notes, scientific analysis and witness interviews — offering new details about a sinister poisoning case that grabbed worldwide attention.

Davies added that details of a related German investigation into the circumstances of Litvinenko’s killing could also be published.

“The documents may be made public through the inquest website,” he said at a preliminary hearing ahead of the inquest.

In Britain, inquests are held following unexplained or violent deaths. Litvinenko’s is set for next year and could begin as soon as March, according to Alex Goldfarb, a friend of the former agent who was at Friday’s hearing.

Litvinenko’s widow

Inquests are meant only to determine a cause of death, so they don’t apportion blame. But in Litvinenko’s case every detail of the sensitive inquiry is being scrutinised for clues to the alleged involvement of Russia’s secret services. At a previous hearing, a lawyer for Litvinenko’s widow said it was vital that the inquest investigate “the criminal role of the Russian state.”

On Friday, Davies said those behind the inquest would keep an open mind, referring to several competing theories about Litvinenko’s death, including speculation that he may have killed in an accident, by Chechen-linked assassins, or by what Davies described as the “Spanish mafia.”

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, widow Marina Litvinenko said she wasn’t alarmed by the suggestion that the inquest would weigh each and every scenario.

“I just want to know the truth,” she said.

Read: Was Yasser Arafat poisoned by polonium?>

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Associated Press

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