The United Kingdom Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced that a public inquiry will be held into the death of the former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko. The former agent of the Soviet Union security agency, better known as the KGB, died in 2006 after he was poisoned with radioactive polonium. The inquiry will examine whether the Russian state was behind the death of the 43-year-old Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium while drinking tea at a London hotel.
The incident occurred in November of 2006 when Litvinenko was having tea with former KGB agents Dimtri Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi. Several days later Alexander Litvinenko was admitted to the hospital where he died 22 days later from radiation poisoning. In 2007, the United Kingdom charged Lugovoi with murder, however Russia refused to extradite the former KGB agent and it was not until six years later that an inquest was carried out during which the coroner recommended a public inquiry. As the British government refused to carry out a public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, his wife Marina Litvinenko challenged the case in London’s High Court in order to force a public inquiry. Following a long legal battle, the High Court announced that an inquiry will be made into the death of the former KGB agent.
Marina Litvinenko announced that she was “relieved and delighted,” saying that the “truth will win out in the end.” She went on to say that she did this for justice, adding that she “would like to be able to show people that you are able to get justice, in any difficult situation.” Theresa May said she hoped the announcement of an inquiry would be of some comfort to Marina Litvinenko and the rest of Litvinenko’s family. Litvinenko’s family believes Alexander Litvinenko was working for the United Kingdom secret intelligence service, commonly known as MI6, at the time.
The goal of the inquiry is to establish how Alexander Litvinenko died and where the responsibility for his death lies. It will have powers to make recommendations, however the inquiry likely will not consider whether Litvinenko’s relationship with MI6 meant that more should have been done to protected him.
Originally, the United Kingdom government resisted calls for a public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, announcing that some of the material related to national security. Since the inquest carried out by the senior judge, Robert Owen, last year, more pressure has been put on the government to investigate the death. Owen claimed that the inquest was unable to consider sensitive government information and as a result any verdict would have the potential to be unfair and misleading, calling for a public inquiry to rectify the situation. Meanwhile, lawyers for Litvinenko’s widow claimed that the state was avoiding an inquiry as it attempted to improve relations with Russia.
United Kingsom relations with Russia are currently on a rapid decline, as the United Kingdom prime minister David Cameron blames Russia for the unrest in Ukraine, as well as the crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Thus, the United Kingdom has finally announced an inquiry into the death of a former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, following multiple sanctions placed on Russia by the British government.
By Ivelina Kunina