A U.K. inquiry into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko will begin in early 2013, more than six years after he died in a London hospital from radiation poisoning.
Judge Robert Owen, who is to lead the investigation, apologized for the delay at today’s hearing in the U.K. capital.
A critic of the Kremlin who lived in London, Litvinenko, 43, died in November 2006 about three weeks after he was exposed to radioactive polonium. The isotope was later discovered in at least 12 London locations by the U.K. Health Protection Agency.
Lawyers for Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, said they believe the Russian government played a part in his death.
“If that hypothesis were to be evidentially substantiated, this would be an act of state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London,” Ben Emmerson, Marina Litvinenko’s attorney, said today.
Russian prosecutors declined to comment on today’s proceedings. In a May interview with Interfax newswire, Saak Karapetyan, a senior prosecution official, said prosecutors wouldn’t be taking part in the “inexplicable” inquest. “We are looking from the sidelines for the time being,” he said.
U.K. prosecutors said following a 2007 investigation that former Russian intelligence officer Andrei Lugovoi should be charged with murder.
Parts of the police report into Litvinenko’s death related to his alleged ties to British intelligence services will be kept secret during the inquiry at the U.K. government’s request, said Hugh Davies, a lawyer for the inquest.
The next preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 2.