Litvinenko widow appeals for legal help

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The widow of murdered Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko has appealed for funds to help with her legal costs as she seeks the truth about his death by radioactive poisoning in London in 2006.

Marina Litvinenko said the cost of employing lawyers to represent her during a forthcoming inquest into her husband's death could stretch into six figures, pleading in a statement: "Please help me expose the murderers of my husband."

Coroner Andrew Reid indicated last week that the inquest into the death -- the official legal inquiry -- would have a broad scope, and he also asked London police and intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 to carry out further inquiries.

Marina Litvinenko welcomed the decision at the time, saying it meant the inquest would examine claims that the Russian state was involved.

British police believe the murder was carried out by Andrei Lugovoi, a former member of the KGB and now a member of the Russian parliament.

He denies the allegations and Moscow has refused to extradite him, straining ties between Britain and Russia.

"In these proceedings the evidence collected by the Metropolitan Police will be weighed against the story presented by Sasha's (Litvinenko's) accused murderer and his sponsors, with the unlimited resources of the Russian state at their disposal," Marina Litvinenko said in a statement issued late Sunday.

"I am sure that my legal team is the best in the world, but the reality is that compared to my adversaries I am severely constrained."

She said that the inquiry could easily run for several weeks, and "at the very least, my legal costs are likely to run into six figures. ... This is why I am appealing to the public for help."

Inquests are led by a coroner but interested parties, including spouses, can also question witnesses.

Alexander Litvinenko, 43, a spy turned exiled Kremlin critic, died in agony on November 23, 2006, just over three weeks after drinking tea reportedly laced with highly radioactive Polonium-210 at a top London hotel.

© 2011 AFP

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