UK coroner to probe Russian ex-KGB officer's death

AP News
Posted: Oct 14, 2011 8:04 AM
UK coroner to probe Russian ex-KGB officer's death

A British coroner has ordered a wide-ranging inquest into the 2006 death of dissident former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko died in a London hospital after ingesting a radioactive substance, polonium-210. On his deathbed, he blamed then-Russian President Vladimir Putin for authorizing his poisoning _ bringing U.K.-Russian relations to a freeze.

London officials said Friday that coroner Dr. Andrew Reid had asked police and British intelligence agencies to carry out further inquiries into the death.

Russia has refused repeated British requests for the extradition of the chief suspect in the case, ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi, who denies any involvement.

Last month, in a step toward mending U.K.-Russian ties, Prime Minister David Cameron made the first visit to Russia's capital by a British leader since Litvinenko's death. He stressed that Britain and Russia must set aside their disputes over the incident to nurture new trading ties and help promote global stability.

Cameron held talks with Putin and with President Dmitry Medvedev, who said relations between the two countries were thawing but that there would be no change in Moscow's refusal to hand over Lugovoi.

Reid, the coroner, has deferred a decision on the full scope of the inquest and whether he will hold it himself or ask for a senior judge to oversee the process.

His office declined to give a timeframe on when those decisions will be made.

Litvinenko's widow Marina said she had been waiting for almost five years for an inquest.

"The coroner has said there will be a wide inquest into my husband's death," she said. "It will therefore include an investigation into the involvement of the Russian state in his murder, which is exactly what I want."