Litvinenko murder suspect to help with inquiry

Dmitri Kovtun is said to have contacted the Litvinenko inquiry. Picture: Getty
Dmitri Kovtun is said to have contacted the Litvinenko inquiry. Picture: Getty
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ONE of the suspected killers of the spy Alexander Litvinenko is willing to co-operate with the inquiry into his death, it heard yesterday.

A man giving the name Dmitri Kovtun has been contacting the inquiry, causing lawyers to ponder whether he may give evidence by video link or face questioning by police.

Counsel to the inquiry Robin Tam, QC, told chairman Sir Robert Owen: “During the course of the last fortnight, the solicitor to the inquiry has received communications from a man who has given his name as Dmitri Kovtun. He has said he is willing to take part in the inquiry.”

He said it was not known if he intended to instruct legal representatives and there was no prospect of hearing any evidence from him before Easter.

Sir Robert said: “It is highly regrettable that it is so late in the day that this approach and application from Dmitri Kovtun has been made.”

Richard Horwell, QC for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: “We have grave concerns about what may be behind this development.”

Sir Robert added: “Concerns that are shared by me.” He said that however the inquiry decided to proceed, he would set strict time limits.

“This matter cannot be allowed to drift on, but I don’t think there’s anything more I can say now.”

Ben Emmerson QC, for Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina, said: “It is an unexpected development that Mr Kovtun should now seek to show his face, but if that’s what he wants to do, then we would be more than happy to facilitate the opportunity to have a proper chance to question this man about his conduct and his role in the murder of Mr Litvinenko.”

He added: “Should he be questioned by the police? There’s an ongoing investigation in to his responsibility for the murder.”

Kovtun and KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi are the suspects over the death in London of former KGB agent Mr Litvinenko who died of radioactive poisoning on 23 November, 2006. He is believed to have been given a fatal dose of polonium-210 on the first of the month.

The inquiry has heard that on 1 November, the two suspects went to visit a business associate in Mayfair before going to late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s office to pick up tickets for that night’s football match between CSKA Moscow and Arsenal.

Lugovoi had arranged to see Mr Litvinenko on 2 November, but on the morning of 1 November called him to rearrange for later that day.

Mr Litvinenko, who fled from Russia to seek asylum in the UK, agreed to the meeting, and went to see Lugovoi after an appointment with a security expert, Mario Scaramella.

He was seen on footage arriving in a hotel foyer for the meeting with his two suspected murderers.

Further footage showed Lugovoi and Kovtun separately using toilets near the Millennium Hotel’s Pine Bar which is not covered by CCTV, before Mr Litvinenko arrived.

The inquiry heard there were high radioactivity readings in the toilets. The next hearing will be on 30 March.

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