Litvinenko suspect given last chance by UK inquiry

27th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Russian businessman wanted in Britain over the death of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko was on Monday given a final chance to give evidence to the inquiry into his death.

Dmitry Kovtun had been due to appear via video link from Moscow for three days from Monday, after reversing a previous decision not to do so in March, but has given a series of reasons for being unable to testify.

Judge Robert Owen, who is presiding over the inquiry, gave Kovtun until Tuesday to provide testimony, saying he feared the Russian was attempting to "manipulate the situation".

Kovtun and a second Russian, Andrei Lugovoi, are wanted by British police for allegedly poisoning Litvinenko in a London hotel on November 1, 2006 using tea laced with polonium-210, a radioactive isotope.

Inquiry counsel Robin Tam told the court that Kovtun "is not in a position to give oral evidence now".

Owen said: "The timing... gives rise in my mind to the gravest suspicion that an attempt is being made to manipulate the situation.

"The last opportunity for him to do so will be 9:00 am (0800 GMT) tomorrow morning."

The inquiry is one of the sources of tensions in British-Russian relations, along with the conflict in Ukraine, last year's downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine's east and repeated instances of Russian military aircraft flying close to British airspace.

© 2015 AFP

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