Five Years Later, Ex-Russian Agent's Widow Continues Fight For Justice
November 23, 2011
LONDON -- The widow of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning in London five years ago, says she will continue to fight for justice for him, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
Litvinenko, 44, a British citizen and former Federal Security Service (FSB) operative, was poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium-210 in London in 2006.
Litvinenko left Russia for the United Kingdom in 2000 and became well-known for his statements and articles criticizing the Russian government, in particular the FSB and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Litvinenko's death affected Russian-British relations, as Moscow refused to extradite to Britain former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi, whom British investigators consider the prime suspect in Litvinenko's murder.
Marina Litvinenko told RFE/RL that "the man who committed the crime against my husband has been named. His surname is Lugovoi. The inquest we have asked for seems to be the only way out of the situation we face now.
"We cannot wait another five years, and then again for years," she continued. "The more we wait, the more opportunities may arise for insinuations and unthinkable accusations against [Aleksandr]."
Lugovoi Chief Suspect
London police investigated Litvinenko's murder for seven months. The Russian authorities allowed British investigators to interrogate Lugovoi and Litvinenko's close contact, Dmitry Kovtun, in Moscow in the presence of Russian investigators.
British investigators say that Litvinenko, Lugovoi, and Kovtun met on November 1 in a London hotel bar where, according to police, they drank tea together. Litvinenko became ill later the same day and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later.
By May 2007, an official investigation had been completed and the case was transferred to the Crown Prosecution Service, which named Lugovoi a suspect in the murder and requested his extradition to Britain.
Lugovoi denied any involvement in the murder.
The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office refused to extradite Lugovoi, saying Russian law prohibits the extradition of its citizens to foreign countries. Since British laws exclude trials and sentencing in absentia, the British authorities had to freeze the case.
Marina Litvinenko has managed to persuade the British authorities to hold an inquest -- an investigation by a coroner into the circumstances of a violent death.
That sort of investigation proceeds as a trial, and very often with the presence of jury, but is not empowered to pass a verdict.
Coroner Andrew Reid announced in London last month that he would conduct the inquest into Litvinenko's death.
Marina Litvinenko told RFE/RL that at this point no date had been set for the inquest and it was unclear how long it will last. She said she was convinced that "all the evidence filed by [London police] Scotland Yard regarding my husband's murder is strong and valid."
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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