Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
British Coroner to Investigate Litvinenko Poisoning
A British coroner intends to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the radiation-induced death of former KGB official Alexander Litvinenko, which could produce new friction between the United Kingdom and Russia, the New York Times reported on Friday (see GSN, Dec. 16, 2010).
Authorities believe Litvinenko drank tea that had been tainted with polonium 210 at a hotel in London on Nov. 1, 2006. The vocal opponent of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin died 22 days later at age 43.
The United Kingdom has filed murder charges against one-time KGB operative Andrei Lugovoi, who now serves in the Russian legislature. Moscow has rejected requests that Lugovoi be extradited for trial.
While the two former Cold War foes have seen tensions rise and then drop as time passed, that warming could be frozen by reports of the planned inquest.
Coroner Andrew Reid said he backed a "preliminary view that there should be further investigations into the wider circumstances" of the fatal poisoning. British law enforcement and security agencies have been authorized to pursue investigations of the case, the London Evening Standard reported.
It was not immediately known when the review would be initiated. The inquest could lead to renewed consideration regarding the degree to which Russian officials were involved in the plot, according to the Times.
"Did Russia murder Litvinenko is a question that this inquest, if it is going to do anything in the public interest, has got to be in a position to answer," attorney Ben Emmerson, who represents the Litvinenko family, said to Reid. No investigation was "going to happen in Russia, and it never will," the lawyer added.
Officials in Moscow have indicated their readiness to pursue the case, but say their counterparts in the United Kingdom have refused to provide relevant information.
The United Kingdom authorizes a coroner's court to determine the way in which a person died, but any prosecution is left to criminal courts.
Attorney Jessica Simor, representing Lugovoi, said the coroner's investigation should look at "all other possibilities including death by misadventure and suicide," according to news reports.
"We do not accept that there is an indisputable verdict of unlawful killing in this case," she said. Simor's client has suggested that the polonium was Litvinenko's and that he died after ingesting the material (Alan Cowell, New York Times, Oct. 14).
June 30, 2012
A report published by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Center for Energy and National Security Studies on advancing the U.S.-Russian nuclear security agenda.
This article provides an overview of Russia’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.