Litvinenko murder suspect snubs inquest

2013-03-12 18:38
Andrei Lugovoi speaks during press conference in Moscow, Russia, about the 2006 poisoning in London of former Russian agent turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko. (Misha Japaridze, AP)

Andrei Lugovoi speaks during press conference in Moscow, Russia, about the 2006 poisoning in London of former Russian agent turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko. (Misha Japaridze, AP)

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Moscow - The chief suspect in the polonium poisoning of Russian dissident and ex-security agent Alexander Litvinenko said on Tuesday he would take no part in the British inquest into the death, blaming London's decision to keep some sensitive material a secret.

Russian lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi said that his legal representatives would no longer take part in the inquest or present evidence, claiming that he had lost faith in the British justice system.

"I am forced to announce that I am pulling out of the coroners' inquest and will not take part in it anymore," Lugovoi said at a news conference, flanked by his lawyer.

The fact-finding inquest into Litvinenko's death - which does not rule on guilt - is expected to begin later this year. So far there have been pre-inquest hearings.

Lugovoi blamed his decision on British Foreign Secretary William Hague's request to keep some of the evidence secret in the interests of national security.

"There is the position of Britain to make it secret and there is my position: Not to take part because it has been made secret, because I don't see the point," he said.

Strained ties

"I finally lost faith in the very possibility of an unprejudiced investigation of this case in Britain," he said.

Hague's decision has also prompted complaints from British media and Litvinenko's widow Marina, whose lawyers have argued the block is a cover-up to improve relations with Russia after it emerged in the pre-inquest review that Litvinenko worked for British spy agency MI6.

The inquest will examine Lugovoi's background, movements and statements as well as the possible involvement of Russian state agencies, according to a website on the inquest set up by Britain.

The former spy and now lawmaker for a nationalist party has been named by British police as the chief suspect in Litvinenko's 2006 murder by radioactive polonium poisoning, but Russia refuses to extradite him in a row that has strained ties.

Lugovoi said he has no intention of going to Britain while he is a suspect. But he confirmed that he had hired a British legal firm to represent him at the inquest that would not now be doing so.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview last week said that Russia was calling for the inquest and the public to have full access to all the information.

Lugovoi's announcement came a day before Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu were due to meet their British counterparts in London in a meeting seen as aimed at warming relations.

Read more on:    alexander litvinenko  |  russia

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