Litvinenko's widow Marina and Ben Emmerson QC arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday
Litvinenko's widow Marina and Ben Emmerson QC arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday

The public inquiry into the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was given a fatal dose of a radioactive substance in November 2006, began yesterday.

It is believed a cup of tea given to Litvinenko was spiked with polonium-210 after he was deemed a traitor by the Kremlin. The two prime suspects are Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who known to have met Litvinenko at London's Millennium Hotel shortly before his death.

The Crown Prosecution Service has tried and failed to get the two men extradited from Russia to face trial. Both deny any involvement in the killing.

As the inquiry began yesterday, Litvinenko's death was described as "an act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of a major city" because of the trail it left across London.

Vladimir Putin, accused by Litvinenko on his deathbed of personally sanctioning his murder, was described by Ben Emmerson QC, representing Litvinenko's widow Marina and son Anatoly, as a "common criminal dressed up as a head of state".

The startling truth, which is going to be revealed by the evidence in this inquiry, is that a significant part of Russian organised crime around the world is organised directly from the offices of the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a mafia state.

  • Ben Emmerson QC
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