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Litvinenko inquest set to resume

A public inquiry into the death of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko will continue today.

Chairman Sir Robert Owen formally opened the inquiry in July after Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina led a successful challenge against holding an inquest into his death.

A directions hearing will be held at the Royal Courts of Justice to deal with a range of issues such as the proper scope of the Inquiry, a nonymity and the extent to which previous rulings made in the inquest may be adopted.

The extent to which Sir Robert should request or permit the recording or broadcast of proceedings at the Inquiry will also be discussed.

Mr Litvinenko, who fled to Britain in 2000, died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 while meeting two Russian men – one a former KGB officer, at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.

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 in the killing, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.

Sir Robert previously said that alleged Russian state responsibility in the 43-year-old’s death was of ”central importance to my investigation”.

However, Britain’s responsibility for protecting the former KGB officer will not be investigated as part of the inquiry as there is no evidence to suggest any failings on the state’s part.

Mrs Litvinenko fought for the probe into her husband’s murder after Sir Robert said he could not hold a ”fair and fearless” investigation as part of an inquest, and a public inquiry should take place instead.

The Government had previously resisted launching an inquiry, instead saying it would ”wait and see” what a judge-led inquest found, but the High Court ruled the Home Secretary should reconsider the decision.

Although Mrs Litvinenko and her lawyers will not be able to see secret material, the chairman can take it into account, unlike in an inquest.

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