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Inquiry Into Litvinenko Death Set for Next Year

A British judicial inquiry into the use of radioactive polonium 210 to kill Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko is scheduled to begin next year, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The former KGB officer died in late November 2006 in London; he is believed to have consumed tea tainted with the radioactive isotope earlier that month in a city hotel during a meeting with two other veterans of the Russian spy agency. Prior to his death, Litvinenko said he was the victim of an act orchestrated by Vladimir Putin, Russia's president at the time who reclaimed the job earlier this year.

"The criminal role of the Russian state" must be considered by the inquiry, according to Ben Emmerson, an attorney who represents Litvinekno's widow, Marina.

Russia would have committed "an act of state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London" if it can be connected to the poisoning, Emmerson said.

Moscow has denied any involvement and has rejected London's request to extradite suspects Alexander Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun.

Inquiry head Judge Robert Owen appeared supportive of studying whether the Russian government had a hand in Litvinenko's death, AP reported. However, a police report on the case will be redacted before being released to exclude findings on whether there was communication between Litvinenko and the British Secret Intelligence Service.

The aim of inquests in the United Kingdom is to identify with certainty the details of a case that involves a violent or surprising death, or one in which there is not agreement on the facts. Identifying whether a person committed a criminal act is not part of the review.

"I'm not a politician, I'm a woman who lost her husband and I want to know what happened," Marina Litvinenko said following a preliminary hearing for the inquiry.


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