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UK 'colluded' with Kremlin to block inquiry into death of poisoned Russian spy Litvinenko
- Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London hotel in 2006
- Coroner Sir Robert Owen asked for public inquiry instead of an inquest
- But UK government rejected the idea to the dismay of ex-spy's family
- Widow Marina 'shocked and disappointed' by the decision
- Government insists inquest can now go ahead
By Ryan Kisiel
PUBLISHED: 07:37 EST, 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 19:49 EST, 12 July 2013
The Government was accused yesterday of colluding with the Kremlin by blocking a call for a public inquiry into the death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.
Ministers refused a coroner’s request to replace with a public inquiry the current inquest into how the former KGB agent was poisoned with radiation at a London hotel.
Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina yesterday described the decision as ‘shocking’ and her legal team accused Russia and Britain of colluding to stop the inquiry.
Justice: The family of Alexander Litvinenko wanted a public inquiry into his death in 2006
Dismay: Marina Litvinenko outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in central London today where she vowed to continue her quest for the truth
She will now seek a judicial review for a public inquiry that will hear in private sensitive evidence about Mr Litvinenko’s work and Russia’s involvement in his November 2006 death.
Sir Robert Owen asked Justice Secretary Chris Grayling for the public inquiry due to concerns he cannot fully investigate the case.
This was because evidence from MI5 and MI6 about the death would remain secret. At the inquest at the High Court yesterday he said his request had been rejected without explanation.
Alexander Litvinenko poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square in 2006
Foreign Secretary William Hague last month successfully applied for some sensitive material, including evidence on whether the Russian government was involved in the death, to be kept private.
This meant it could not be considered during the inquest.
The court has already heard that the Government has ‘established’ Moscow has a case to answer over Mr Litvinenko’s death.
Asked outside court if she thought Britain preferred good relations with Russia rather than justice, Mrs Litvinenko replied: ‘We can all see this. This is what it looks like.’
She said that it was a ‘political decision’, adding: ‘Were they trying to protect the Russian state? Were they trying to protect national security secrets?
‘I respect England as a country and I still believe in this country. I believe again that we will get justice.’
Mrs Litvinenko’s solicitor Elena Tsirlina said: ‘What has happened behind the scenes and publicly between Russia and Britain is very hard to say, but it is shocking that this public inquiry has been stopped.’
Close friend Alexander Goldfarb said: ‘This decision will stand in the same line as the long history of appeasement to dictatorships.’
Mr Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair at a meeting with former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun. Both deny involvement in his death.
The Crown Prosecution Service wants to charge Mr Lugovoy, but Russia refuses to extradite him.
Sir Robert said the start of the formal inquest, originally scheduled for October, would now be delayed.