In blow to inquest, key suspect in Russian spy murder refuses to cooperate
Andrei Lugovoi, who is now an elected official in Russia, says he won't talk even by video to British investigators about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London just over six years ago.
The murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London just over six years ago, using what must be the world's most exotic poison, radioactive polonium 210, has never been solved and remains the subject of conflicting narratives and still-deepening intrigue over who may have killed him and why.Skip to next paragraph
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Now it appears that a British public inquest that aimed to find definitive answers to those questions, slated to open in May, may have virtually no chance of getting to the bottom of it.
"I have come to the conclusion that the British authorities will not give me an opportunity to prove my innocence and that I will not be able to find justice in Great Britain," Mr. Lugovoi told a Moscow press conference.
"I have definitely lost my faith in the possibility of an unbiased investigation of this case in Great Britain. I have to state that I am withdrawing from the coroner’s investigation and will no longer participate in it," he said.
No one denies that Lugovoi and his business partner Dmitry Kovtun met with Litvinenko in a London bar on the day he fell ill. British investigators later established that Litvinenko's teacup at that meeting was contaminated with polonium-210, and thus was almost certainly the murder weapon. Traces of polonium, a substance that's almost impossible to obtain except by governments, were later found in Mr. Kovtun's apartment in Germany and on the clothes of both Kovtun and Lugovoi.
Britain demanded at the time that Lugovoi be returned to London to stand trial for murder. But Russia refused, saying the Russian Constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens. Lugovoi was subsequently elected to the State Duma on the ticket of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, where he is still a member enjoying parliamentary immunity.
The upcoming inquest, where witnesses must testify under oath, has been regarded as the last chance to unravel all the conflicting stories and perhaps arrive at the truth.
But its prospects for success have already been under doubt due to the British government's efforts to limit access to sensitive materials about the case which some critics claim it is doing as part of a deal with Russia aimed at improving ties between the two countries.