Crime & the Law

Litvinenko’s deathbed indictment: Putin ordered his assassination by polonium poisoning

The first public proceedings of inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvenenko. His family walk past the international media covering the 10 week long hearing.

Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko leave the High Courts Of Justice, on the first day of the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Image: Tayo Popoola Reporter at the Inquiry Tayo Popoola

The first day of the public inquiry into the death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvenenko by radioactive poisoning has heard that he told British police on his deathbed that he was certain he was targeted on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Counsel to the Inquiry Robin Tam QC said there is evidence that Mr Litvinenko was poisoned not once, but twice with Polonium in October and November 2006.

Mr Tam outlined in some detail through the presentation of written statements the events surrounding the three meetings between Mr Litvinenko and the two individuals alleged to have been involved in his murder: Andrei Lugovoi, and Dimitry Kovtun.

The inquiry heard that both Mr Luguvoi and Mr Kovtun have been approached by the inquiry to take part, but have declined.

Sir Robert Owen, who’s chairing the inquiry says he has invited the two men to give evidence from Russia by video-link.

Robin Tam QC described Mr Litvinenko’s dissatisfaction with corruption in the Russian secret service, and how he developed sympathy with the struggle of the Chechen rebels.

These events helped him turn ‘whistleblower’ against his former employers, making him – in his opinion, – a potential target.

These events also encouraged him to take his family out of Russia in a fashion that Mr Tam described as ‘a plot that would not disgrace the pages of a thriller.’

The Royal Courts of Justice where the Litvinenko Inquiry is in session.

The Royal Courts Of Justice where the Litvinenko Inquiry is in session. Image: Tayo Popoola

The first witnesses to be called tomorrow will be Craig Mascall, police officer in charge of the ongoing investigation, and a nuclear scientist whose identity is protected by the court, and is an expert on the effects of polonium.

Over the next few weeks, Mr Tam QC said that the number 66 court where the hearing is taking place will also hear from family and friends of Mr Litvinenko,  work colleagues, forensic scientists, police officers, and ‘witnesses of pure fact’ directly involved with the events leading up to his death.

Sir Robert Owen has promised a ‘full, frank and fearless investigation.’

He added that the inquiry is ‘not here to determine liability, but will not be inhibited by any inference of liability.’

Closing statements are expected before Easter.

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