Former Rus­sian spy worked for MI6, lawyer says

Au­thor­i­ties have re­opened probes into his 2006 death from poi­son­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Sylvia Hui

LON­DON — Alexan­der Litvi­nenko, the former Rus­sian agent-turnedKrem­lin critic, was a “reg­is­tered and paid” agent work­ing for Bri­tain’s for­eign in­tel­li­gence agency when he died af­ter be­ing mys­te­ri­ously poi­soned, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing his widow told an of­fi­cial hear­ing Thurs­day. An­other lawyer said the U.K. has ev­i­dence the Rus­sian government was be­hind Litvi­nenko’s death.

The 43-year-old Rus­sian died in Novem­ber 2006 af­ter drink­ing tea laced with the rare ra­dioac­tive iso­tope polo­nium-210 at a Lon­don ho­tel. Six years later, Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties are re­open­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the shock­ing cir­cum­stances of his death.

On his deathbed, the former Rus­sian FSB agent ac­cused the Krem­lin — specif­i­cally Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin — of be­ing be­hind his killing, and his fam­ily has long de­manded Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties be held ac­count­able.

The case has strained re­la­tions be­tween the United King­dom and Rus­sia, which de­nies poi­son­ing the former Rus­sian agent.

Thurs­day’s ses­sion aimed to set out the scope of a pub­lic in­quest into Litvi­nenko’s death. Judge Robert Owen said the in­quest is ex­pected to start in May.

Lawyer Ben Em­mer­son, rep­re­sent­ing Litvi­nenko’s widow, Ma­rina, al­leged that at the time of his death, Litvi­nenko was work­ing for Bri­tain’s MI6 spy agency and had been tasked to help Span­ish in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­gate the Rus­sian mafia. The U.K. probe must con­sider if MI6 failed to prop­erly as­sess the risks be­fore send­ing the agent out on his as­sign­ment, Em­mer­son said.

Ac­cord­ing to the lawyer, Litvi­nenko had been em­ployed by MI6 for sev­eral years and fre­quently met with a han­dler from the agency known only as “Martin” in cen­tral Lon­don. Pay­ments from both the Bri­tish and Span­ish in­tel­li­gence agen­cies were made to a joint bank ac­count held by the agent and his wife, Em­mer­son al­leged.

Shortly be­fore his death, Litvi­nenko was due to travel to Spain with former KGB body­guard An­drey Lu­govoi to pro­vide in­tel­li­gence to Span­ish au­thor­i­ties, Em­mer­son told the hear­ing.

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