Confidential documents leaked to the British press show that a leading medical examiner wants to reinspect the 2006 death of a former Soviet intelligence officer, in light of new revelations. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and its successor organization, the FSB, who in 2000 defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became known as an increasingly vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, in a London restaurant. The latter is believed by British authorities to have assassinated Litvinenko “with the backing of the Russian state”. Although much of the case remains shrouded in mystery, an important new clue was added to the equation in October, when Litvinenko’s widow publicly admitted that her husband had been a paid employee of British intelligence services MI5 and MI6. Marina Litvinenko told British tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday that Alexander had advised both agencies on “combat[ing] Russian organized crime in Europe”. She had previously denied rumors that her husband had been working for British intelligence when he was killed —ostensibly by the Russian government.
The revelation appears to have prompted a British coroner to request that the medical investigation into Litvinenko’s death be reopened. Documents leaked to The Mail on Sunday appear to show that Andrew Reid, a coroner at St Pankras Hospital in London, has formally requested that both MI5 and MI6 release all of their internal files on Litvinenko, in the context of a new investigation. Dr Reid, who is in charge of an ongoing classified inquest into the former KGB officer’s alleged assassination, states in his written request that any evidence supplied by MI5 and MI6 will be fed into “a wide-ranging investigation” that will “extend beyond the mechanical circumstances of [Litvinenko’s] death”.
The medical examiner adds that the information regarding Litvinenko’s employment with the British intelligence services requires further elaboration, and that the inquest into the late spy’s death may benefit from any documents, reports, and telephone or email intercepts, that British intelligence may have on him. Dr Reid’s request also raises the possibility that the inquest may be upgraded into a full-scale public inquiry headed by a senior judge, who will be able to consider evidence by MI5 and MI6, presented behind closed doors at an “appropriately secure” venue.
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