Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi speaks during a news conference
in Moscow. The British Government is seeking extradition of
Lugovoi for his role in the death of Alexander Litvinenko
in 2006. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Britain's main suspect in the poisoning of Kremlin critic
Alexander Litvinenko said today he would no longer cooperate
with an inquest into the death, accusing the government of
concealing evidence to hide the truth.
The former KGB agent, who had been granted British
citizenship, died in November 2006 after someone slipped
polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope, into his cup of tea
at a London hotel.
Andrei Lugovoy, a former security agent who is now a member
of Russia's parliament, said a request by Britain's Foreign
Ministry to keep some information about the death secret for
national security reasons was turning the inquest into a
"I have come to the conclusion that the British authorities
will not give me a chance to prove my innocence. I will be
unable to get justice in Britain," Lugovoy told a news
conference in Moscow.
The two countries' foreign and defence ministers are due to
meet in London on Wednesday in the latest effort to improve
relations that frayed over his death.
Russia has denied involvement in the death of Litvinenko, who
put his name to a deathbed statement accusing Russian
President Vladimir Putin of ordering his death to silence
him. Lugovoy has also denied any involvement.
Russia has refused to extradite Lugovoy and he has avoided
Britain, but he appointed lawyers to represent him in the
coroner's inquiry, for which several preliminary hearings
have been held since August.
Lugovoy, 46, told the news conference that he had previously
welcomed the inquiry as a chance to "defend my good name",
get access to British case materials and present his own
"How can I prove my innocence? How can you play with an open
hand when your opponent, represented by the Foreign Ministry
of Britain, is hiding his cards?" he said. "It's not hard to
guess who ends up the loser."
Under British law, inquests conducted by coroners are held
when a person dies unexpectedly to determine the cause of
death and may, depending on the findings, lead to further
At a hearing in December, a lawyer acting on behalf of the
inquest said the British government possessed information
which established "a prima facie case" that the Russian state
was behind Litvinenko's killing.
He was poisoned a month after investigative journalist Anna
Politkovskaya was fatally shot in Moscow, another death that
Kremlin critics said underscored the dangers of challenging
the Russian government since Putin came to power in 2000.
Brandishing a thick, bound sheaf of paper he said was a
London police report on the death, Lugovoy called it "a
collection of wild conjectures based on nothing" and "the
politicised fantasies of London detectives".
Litvinenko's widow, Marina, has also criticised the British
government's secrecy request.
At a hearing last month, her lawyers alleged Britain was
trying to keep secret details of his work for its MI6
intelligence service, and material they said showed Russia
was behind his death, for the sake of trade deals.
The British coroner conducting the inquest ruled last month
that he would hold private hearings to consider the
government's request, but would only allow material to be
kept secret where that served the public interest better than
disclosure. The next public pre-inquest hearing is to be held
On Wednesday, Hague and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond are
due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the first session of what
Moscow calls a "strategic dialogue".
Asked whether Hague and Lavrov would discuss Litvinenko, a
British Foreign Office spokesman said a detailed agenda was
not agreed in advance but added: "Both sides discuss issues
where we don't agree on things. We regularly raise the
Litvinenko issue at the very highest levels with Russian
The Foreign Office declined to comment on Lugovoy's decision.
A lawyer for Marina Litvinenko, Elena Tsirlina, said she
would not comment either.