Support The Moscow Times!

Witnesses in Litvinenko Case Could Face Russian Reprisals, British Lawyer Says

Former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko.

LONDON — Britain's public inquiry next year into the 2006 murder of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko should not be broadcast because witnesses could face reprisals from Russia, the lawyer representing London's police force said Friday.

Kremlin critic Litvinenko, 43, died after being poisoned with a radioactive isotope slipped into a cup of tea in a plush London hotel, a crime which from his death bed he blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement but Robert Owen, chairman of the inquiry which British ministers in July finally agreed to hold, has said the government had material which indicated the Kremlin was responsible.

"This was a highly organized and shocking execution and you have found prima facie evidence of Russian state involvement," Richard Horwell, the Metropolitan Police's lawyer told Owen as he argued broadcasting the inquiry live over the internet when it begins in earnest in January would discourage witnesses.

"No one can suggest it's fanciful for a witness in this of all hearings to be concerned about reprisal or revenge in whatever form from Russia."

He was backed by the British government's lawyer Neil Garnham who said there was also the potential to damage national security through the deliberate or inadvertent disclosure of restricted material.

"This is far from an easy question to resolve," said Owen who has previously indicated he wanted the much-anticipated inquiry to be as open as possible.

Anglo-Russian ties fell to a post-Cold War low after Litvinenko's death, particularly after British prosecutors said there was enough evidence to charge former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun with murder.

Despite a thawing in relations when David Cameron became prime minister in 2010, the recent crisis in Ukraine has once again led to antagonism.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

Once
Monthly
Annual
Continue
paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more