Russia ‘was involved in Litvinenko’s death’

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the Russian state was involved in the murder of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, evidence found by the UK government has shown.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died in November 2006 after he was poisoned with polonium-210 while drinking tea at a meeting, allegedly with two Russians – former KGB contacts Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun – at the Millennium Hotel in London.

Prosecutors named Lugovoy as the main suspect, but Russia has refused to extradite him to the UK for questioning.

At a pre-inquest review yesterday, Hugh Davies, counsel to the inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death, said assessments of confidential material submitted by the British government had “established a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.

Ben Emmerson, QC, representing Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, said the inquest should also consider whether MI6 failed in its duty to protect against a “real and immediate risk to life”.

Mr Litvinenko had been hired by MI6 for a number of years and was working with the Spanish secret service investigating the Russian mafia shortly before his death, the pre-inquest review at Camden Town Hall in London was told.

He would regularly meet with an MI6 handler, named only as Martin, in London and was paid by both the British and Spanish secret services into a joint bank account he held with his wife.

The inquest next year will be held before High Court judge Sir Robert Owen, who has been appointed assistant deputy coroner.