Russia is making an unacceptable attempts to “restrict and distort” evidence linked to the death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, said Robert Owen the senior judge overseeing a British inquiry into the case. The inquiry was delayed further after Dmitry Kovtun, a key suspect, said he had not obtained permission from Russian authorities to give evidence.
Did the president of Russia order Litvinenko’s killing?
Dmitry Kovtun and fellow Russian Andrei Lugovoy are accused of murdering Litvinenko. The ex-KGB spy-turned-whistle blower died in November 2006 at the Millennium Hotel in London after drinking tea from a pot laced with highly radioactive Polonium-210. Litvinenko had sought asylum in the UK and got British citizenship. He was a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin.
Litvinenko’s family and legal team have accused Vladimir Putin of ordering the killing of Litvinenko. The Kremlin and Putin both have repeatedly denied any role in his death. Dmitry Kovtun was supposed to testify on Monday by video link from Moscow. But he said he was “not in a position to give oral evidence” as he might risk committing an offence by doing so. Russia has refused to extradite Kovtun and Lugovoy.
Kovtun fails to appear
Robert Owen had given Kovtun until 9:00 AM Tuesday to agree to provide evidence, but Kovtun failed to appear. Owen said the former Soviet Army officer’s actions cast doubt on “the credibility of anything else he says.” He added that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) had put a limit on what Kovtun could have testified about.
The British public inquiry is expected to issue a report on the death of Alexander Litvinenko by the end of this year. Owen had said earlier that there was a prima facie case suggesting Russian involvement in the ex-KGB spy’s death. Litvinenko’s death brought down relations between Russia and the UK to a new low. Kovtun told a press conference in April that Litvinenko might have killed himself accidentally while handling the deadly Polonium-210.