Litvinenko suspect pledges to 'refute' evidence at inquiry

22nd March 2015, Comments 0 comments

A suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko has pledged to disprove evidence blaming him and an associate for the radiation death of the former Russian spy in surprise testimony to a British inquiry.

Russian citizen Dmitri Kovtun -- accused by British police of helping poison Litvinenko in London in 2006 -- blasted some of the accusations against him as "jibberish" after agreeing to give evidence by video-link.

"I have decided to take part in the inquiry now because I've heard a lot of statements that are easy to refute," Kovtun told the BBC in Moscow, where is he forced to live for fear of being arrested abroad.

"By becoming a participant I can get access to documents including secret material so that I can make my own conclusions," he said in the interview aired Sunday.

Kovtun and a second Russian Andrei Lugovoi, a former Kremlin bodyguard, allegedly poisoned Litvinenko in a London hotel using tea laced with polonium-210 -- a radioactive isotope.

The pair had previously refused to play any part in two-month-old inquiry, which is looking into possible Russian state involvement in the murder, but Kovtun now claims he wants to clear his name.

"I am ready to answer everything. I had nothing to do with the murder nor did Andrei Lugovoi," he told the BBC.

The inquiry had been expected to conclude at the end of this month but has been told that Kovtun's request and delays in other witnesses testifying via video-link mean the hearings will continue into April.

A report with the inquiry's findings is due to be published by the end of the year.

Litvinenko died in a London hospital on November 23, 2006, three weeks after meeting Kovtun and Lugovoi.

In a letter dictated from his deathbed, he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having ordered his murder.


© 2015 AFP

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