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Litvinenko death inquiry to open

A public inquiry into the death of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko will be formally opened today.

Coroner Sir Robert Owen will suspend the current inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death before opening the inquiry, which was announced by the Home Secretary Theresa May last week.

The 43-year-old who fled to Britain in 2000, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea with two Russian men, one a former KGB officer, at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.

The Government had previously resisted launching a public inquiry, and instead said it would ”wait and see” what a judge-led inquest found.

But Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, challenged this and the High Court ruled that the Home Secretary must reconsider the decision.

An inquiry will allow investigators to probe whether the Russian state was behind the former KGB officer’s murder.

The terms of reference for the probe are ”to conduct an investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko in order to ascertain who the deceased was; how, when and where he came by his death; identify where responsibility for the death lies and make appropriate recommendations”.

His family believes he was working for MI6 at the time and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

Former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.

Ministers have been under pressure since last year when Sir Robert said he could not hold a ”fair and fearless” investigation as part of an inquest.

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