Category Archives: Crime

Alexander Litvinenko told police he believed Vladimir Putin ordered his poisoning – live updates

Start of inquiry told the former intelligence officer said Russian agents killed him by putting polonium-210 into his tea on Putin’s orders

3.21pm GMT

Emmerson is now describing the Litvinenko family’s flight to the UK where, he says, they took the name Carter for protection. However, Litvinenko published books under his own name, detailing allegations of FSB wrongdoing connected with Chechnya and elsewhere.

Of Litvinenko’s first book, Blowing Up Russia, Emmerson says:

These revelations did in fact do very considerable damage to Mr Putin’s reputation at home. Even in a country governed by fear, the book achieved significant political traction…

He may or may not have known it at that time, but in publishing this book Mr Litvinenko was taking a step closer to his eventual murder.

3.16pm GMT

Emmerson is now detailing what he calls “the Kremlin’s institutional grudge againt Mr Litvinenko”, one based, he says, on Litvinenko’s whistleblowing about FSB crimes from 1998.

In doing so Litvinenko had “broken the culture of silence” in the FSB – then led by Putin. From then on, Emmerson says, Litvinenko was “a marked man”.

3.13pm GMT

As to motive, Emmerson says, Litvinenko was killed “partly as an act of political revenge for speaking out, partly as a message of lethal deterrence to others, and partly in order to prevent him from giving evidence as a witness in a criminal prosecution in Spain – a prosecution that could have exposed President Putin’s link to an organised crime syndicate.”

Overall, he says, the death “has all the hallmarks of a state-sponsored assassination”.

3.11pm GMT

Emmerson now deals with the Russian response to the murder:

It is of course well known that Russia has refused a British request to extradite the two men to face trial in London for murder, and has taken no meaningful steps to investigate or prosecute them in Russia. This is therefore now the only forum in which the evidence of their guilt can be scrutinised, and reliable conclusions reached by an independent tribunal.

Mr. Lugovoi is often seen nowadays on Russian television, ostentatiously displaying his unexplained wealth. Since he murdered Mr Litvinenko he has been elected to the Russian Duma, giving him effective immunity from prosecution.

3.07pm GMT

Emmerson says “there is not the slighest doubt” that Lugovoi and Kovtun killed Litvinenko. He adds:

Like Putin himself, both were former agents of the FSB and Lugovoi had links to members of Putin’s inner circle. After Mr Litvinenko’s murder Lugovoy boasted publicly of his close connections with the office of the Russian president.

3.02pm GMT

High drama has Emmerson continues his speech with extremely tough words about Putin and his government.

Emmerson told the inquiry that Litvinenko died a slow and painful death. He continued:

The significance of this dreadful murder, though, resonates far beyond those immediately involved.

It is, as you have noted, a matter of grave national and international concern. That is because it involved the calculated pre-planned murder of a British subject on the streets of our capital city by agents of a foreign government, involving the use of the radioactive isotope polonium-210.

2.57pm GMT

Emmerson has begun in dramatic style:

[This] murder was an act of unspeakable barbarism that inflicted on Sasha Litvinenko the most painful and lingering death imaginable.

It was also, as you’ve said, an act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of a major city which put the lives of numerous other members of the public at risk.

2.56pm GMT

We now have ben Emmerson QC, representing Marina Litvinenko. This is expected to be strong stuff.

2.43pm GMT

Tam says the inquiry will also consider whether there is evidence for other theories about how Litvinenko died, including whether he was targeted by organised criminals, Chechens, the British security services, or people working for Boris Berezovsky, or if he was accidentally poisoned or deliberately poisoned himself.

2.37pm GMT

Tam says the last area of evidence he will go over is that of responsibility. He calls this “the central question which this inquiry is tasked with considering.”

Part of this, he notes, is to look into whether the Russian state was responsible, and if so which arm of the state had “the motive, the resources and, frankly, the daring” to carry out such a crime, and if so what, if any, official complicity they had.

2.31pm GMT

Tam is now going through the overview of some of the scientific and other expert evidence the inquiry will hear, including the possibility that Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium twice (see 12.18pm).

Another line of inquiry, Tam adds, is whether it could be possible to trace the source of the polonium seemingly used to kill Litvinenko back to a specific reactor or even a specific batch. It does not seem possible to do this, Tam says. This is because any comparisons can only be made by looking at impurities, whereas the polonium in this case was pure.

2.24pm GMT

Another photo of Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, this time with their son, Anatoly.

2.22pm GMT

Tam says the inquiry will also hear from Bruce Burgess, a polygraph expert connected to the Jeremy Kyle TV show, who tested Lugovoi and concluded he was telling the truth in denying involvement in Litvinenko’s death. While polygraph tests are not admissible in court, Burgess says, this is to help allay concerns about the case, Tam adds.

2.15pm GMT

We’ve started again. Sir Robert Owen, the chairman, begins by saying it has been brought to his attention that some people in the courtroom have been sending texts. This is not allowed – anyone seen doing so will be removed and barred, he warns, in that grave way all judges can summon on demand.

Owen also says that Marina Litvinenko faced vast numbers of cameras outside the court, and asks the press to try and give her some more space.

2.10pm GMT

I can see images from the video feed to the inquiry – as can you at the top of this page – but as yet there’s no sound. They’re either slightly delayed in starting, or there’s some sensitive discussions going on which are not being broadcast.

2.04pm GMT

Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, outside the high court.

1.59pm GMT

Just before we started the afternoon session, here is the story of the morning hearing from Esther Addley:

Alexander Litvinenko was the victim of not one but two attempts to poison him with radioactive polonium, the public inquiry into his murder has heard.

On the opening day of the long-delayed inquiry into the 2006 killing of the Russian dissident, a court in London heard that in addition to the fatal poisoning incident on November 1 of that year, Litvinenko had survived an earlier poisoning attempt two weeks earlier, when he met two other Russian men, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, at an office in Grosvenor Street, central London.

1.17pm GMT

As the inquiry takes its lunchtime break, it’s time for us to summarise a fascinating morning of evidence:

1.06pm GMT

The inquiry is taking a break now until 2pm UK time. Tam will continue his outline of the evidence then.

1.02pm GMT

Tam is still reading out previous evidence from Lugovoi. In this, Lugovoi explained that he felt UK intelligence services had started to see Litvinenko as a “loose cannon”, and thus could have been behind the killing instead. Spanish intelligence services, with whom Litvinenko was also working, could also be to blame, he explained, or else Boris Berezovsky could be implicated.

12.52pm GMT

Tam again stresses that the inquiry is very keen to hear the evidence of Lugovoi and Kovtun. However, he adds, their views are nonetheless well documented, including public declarations, interviews with British police in Moscow, press statements and press conferences on the issue, and other statements.

He is now giving a précis of the men’s previous statements. This includes comments by Lugovoi, who questions whether he would really set off on a radioactive poisoning trip to London with his own family:

What kind of a monster would one need to be to risk the life of one’s wife and children?

12.46pm GMT

Tam says the inquiry will hear from an anonymous witness, known only as D3, who previously worked with Dmitry Kovtun at a restaurant in Hamburg, later keeping in touch with him.

According to D3, who Tam says is likely to give evidence via video link from Germany, on 30 October 2006 – two days before Litvinenko was allegedly poisoned – D3 went out for a drink with Kovtun.

12.32pm GMT

Tam is now leading us through some very detailed evidence about what allegedly took place when Litvinenko drank the seemingly fateful cup of green tea at the Millennium hotel on 1 November 2006.

12.21pm GMT

Here’s a screen grab of Tam speaking to the inquiry.

12.18pm GMT

Tam says, interestingly, that the evidence will show Litvinenko was poisoned “not once but twice”.

The second, and fatal time, took place on 1 November at the hotel bar, as well documented. But Tam says the first attempt appeared to happen when Litvinenko met Lugovoi and Kovtun at an office in Grosvenor Street, central London, on 16 October, when the Russian visitors were on an earlier visit.

12.13pm GMT

As a useful interim summary, Esther Addley has filed this new story on proceedings so far, which will be on the website soon:

Alexander Litvinenko accused Vladimir Putin of personally ordering his murder in deathbed interviews with the Metropolitan police in the days before he died, the public inquiry into his killing has heard.

On the opening day of the inquiry into the Russian’s murder in 2006, the court was told that the dead man spoke to officers from his hospital bed, after being poisoned by radioactive polonium, in which he said he had “no doubt whatsoever that this was done by the Russian secret service”.

12.07pm GMT

Esther Addley noted this good quote from Litvineko’s deathbed interview with police, about Vladimir Putin.

#Litvinenko to police on deathbed ‘I am v upset this criminal sits on G8… Western leaders have untied his hands to kill anyone, anywhere’

12.02pm GMT

Tam is now detailing Lugovoi and Kovtun’s various visits to London, starting from 16 October 2006, and their meetings with Litvinenko, both at the offices of security firms, at hotels and at bars and restaurants. At the latest of these, Lugovoi and Kovtun were staying at the Millennium hotel in central London on 1 November.

As part of his trip, Lugovoi and the family and friends travelling with him went to see CSKA Moscow play Arsenal at the Emirates stadium, Tam adds.

11.51am GMT

Tam explains the inquiry would still like to hear from Lugovoi and Kovtun, via video link from Russia, so they can respond to allegations.

This appeared unlikely, he said. Lugovoi had made it clear he did not want to give evidence, while the inquiry had not heard from Kovtun for “a very long time”.

11.49am GMT

More details from Esther Addley, watching proceedings from the court annexe:

Tam told the court that Litvinenko’s home had been firebombed in 2004, apparently by two Chechen men.

In addition, he said, the dead man’s friend, the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in October 2006, after which Litvinenko had made a statement at the Frontline Club in London in which he blamed Putin.

11.48am GMT

Tam also adds that Litvinenko explained how he had taken his then 12-year-old son to the Tower of London and urged him to protect Britain, the country that had offered them refuge.

Tam is now briefly explaining the possible role of Lugovoi and Kovtun, and their seemingly fateful meeting with Litvinenko at the London hotel in November 2006.

11.44am GMT

Tam is now reading extracts from interviews Litvinenko conducted with the police shortly before his death.

Asked by a detective who might have been responsible for his imminent death, Litvinenko replied:

I have no doubt who wanted it, and I often received threats from these people. I have no doubt this was done by the Russia secret services.

11.41am GMT

Tam notes that in a highly unusual development, when he was gravely ill, Litvinenko produced a statement in which he addressed those who he believed to be his likely murderers. Tam is reading it out in full. One sentence reads:

I can distinctly hear the beating of the wings of the angel of death.

May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

11.37am GMT

Tam is explaining the threats Litvinenko received while in London, which came “from a variety of sources”. At one point his house was firebombed, seemingly by Chechen activists.

A few weeks before his death, Litvinenko and his family became British citizens at a ceremony at Haringey town hall in London, Tam notes.

11.34am GMT

The session has resumed. Robin Tam QC, one of the counsel to the inquiry, is carrying on describing the background to the case, and Litvinenko’s life and career. Except he’s stopped – Tam’s microphone has broken. Cue another pause.

11.21am GMT

Sir Robert Owen has stopped Tam to suggest a 10-minute break. Back after that.

11.19am GMT

The video feed briefly switched itself off just now. That either indicated a technical fault or, more likely, Tam was explaining a sensitive piece of evidence which could not be broadcast for legal or security reasons.

11.15am GMT

Litvinenko was sacked and later jailed for his whistleblowing, Tam says. His later escape from Russia “would not disgrace the pages of a thriller”, the QC says – fleeing on a forged passport to Georgia and Turkey, then meeting his family and flying to London where they claimed asylum.

The family got to London on 1 November 2000 – six years to the day, Tam notes, before he drank the cup of tea allegedly containing the polonium.

11.10am GMT

Tam is giving a potted history of Litvinenko’s career with Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, including his close links with the late oligarch and Putin critic Boris Berezovsky, and Litvinenko’s gradual disillusionment with his work, including worries over an alleged FSB order to kill Berezovsky. Litvinenko then became a public whistleblower, Tam says.

Tam says Litvinenko converted to Islam at the very end of his life.

Evidence that #Litvinenko ordered to kill Boris Berezovsky in 97, court hears. Lit disagreed, tried to warn head of FSB – Vladimir Putin

11.01am GMT

Tam says the inquiry will hear from more than 70 witnesses, including Litvinenko’s family and friends and those who worked with him; medical staff who treated him; pathologists who investigated his death; police in the UK and Germany; forensic scientists and other expert witnesses.

Tam says some commentators have said there is something “sinister” in the fact that the most mortem examination results into Litvinenko’s death have never been made public. “There is nothing of the kind,” Tam says – it’s just that, without an inquest or trial, there has not yet been the right forum in which to hear it. But this will change tomorrow, he addds.

10.57am GMT

Tam is going through who the “core participants” in the inquiry are. They are: Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko; the Metropolitan police; the office of Theresa May, the home secretary; and the Atomic Weapons Establishment. These are all represented by their own lawyers.

Lugovoi and Kovtun were asked if they wanted to become core participants but have not chosen to do so, Tam adds. They are still, even now, very welcome to join (don’t hold your breath for this).

10.49am GMT

Tam notes that members of the public are permitted to sit in the courtroom annexe, where the evidence is being played on a video feed, with a five-minute delay.

He also says that at times, “enhanced measures” will be in place, with no public or media allowed in the main courtroom, to make sure no sensitive evidence is disclosed. They will, however, be able to follow proceedings via video feed (with the five-minute delay to allow for sensitive facts to be excised). The same measures will be in place when anonymous witnesses give evidence.

10.44am GMT

Inquiry chair Sir Robert Owen confirms evidence relating to Russian state responsibility will be heard in private #Litvinenko

A useful tweet from Esther Addley earlier about Owen’s comments.

10.40am GMT

Tam is still explaining the steps leading up to the inquiry, including the suspension of the inquest into Litvinenko’s death ahead of the hearings. Tam then outlines the terms of reference of the inquiry. You can read them on the inquiry’s website, and here they are below. They’re simple, if wordy. Section ii is, of course, the big one – who killed him?

The terms of reference of the inquiry are:

1. Subject to paragraphs 2 and 3 below, the chairman is to conduct an investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko in order to:

10.32am GMT

Here’s a TV screen grab of Sir Robert Owen making his remarks.

10.31am GMT

My colleague, Esther Addley, who is listening to the evidence in an overspill room of the court, sends in this on what the inquiry chairman, Sir Robert Owen, said in his opening address:

The killing of Alexander Litvinenko gives rise to issues of the “utmost gravity” which have attracted “worldwide interest and concern”, the chairman of the public inquiry into his death has said.

Opening the inquiry, more than eight years after the Russian dissident, was murdered in London, Sir Robert Owen vowed to carry out “a full and independent inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.

10.27am GMT

Tam notes Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun have been charged by the CPS but remain in Russia. The pair, Tam says, met Litvinemko on 1 November 2006 at “the best-know location” connected to his death, the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel in central London (this is where they allegedly slipped radioactive polonium-210 into his green tea).

10.24am GMT

The hearing has begun. We’re currently hearing Robin Tam QC, one of the counsel to the inquiry – ie one of the lawyers working for the process, not one of the parties. He is talking through the background to Litvinenko’s death in 2006. There has been “vigorous debate” about the various theories as to how and why Litvinenko might have died, Tam tells the hearing.

10.08am GMT

And finally, before we all start, why does all this matter, beyond the obvious and very painful desire of Marina Litvinenko and her son, Anatoly, to know what happened? Primarily, it’s because the inquiry could have major repercussions for UK-Russian relations.

Before he died, Litvinenko directly blamed Vladimir Putin for his murder. The Crown Prosecution Service has charged Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun in absentia with the crime. Both remain in Russia, where Lugovoi is now a politician and deputy.

10.08am GMT

Here’s Sir Robert Owen arriving at the high court for the hearing.

10.08am GMT

As you’ll see at the top of this blog we have a live stream of the hearing. It’s being broadcast with a five-minute delay, lest anything is said with security implications. For that same reason the reporters in the court are not being allowed to tweet the evidence.

What will we get today? We begin with some opening comments from the inquiry chairman, Sir Robert Owen, a high court judge. Then we get the opening speech by various counsel to the inquiry, and then opening speeches by what the inquiry website calls “core participants”. This will mean the opening address by Ben Emmerson, the highly respected QC representing Litvinenko’s widow, Marina.

10.08am GMT

Another good introduction as to what’s happening today is Luke’s curtain-raising story for today, which you can read in full here. This is a snippet:

Litvinenko was poisoned on 1 November 2006, after meeting two Russian contacts, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, in the Millennium hotel in London. The pair allegedly slipped radioactive polonium-210 into Litvinenko’s green tea. Litvinenko died in a London hospital 22 days later, after blaming Vladimir Putin for his Cold War-style assassination.

The Crown Prosecution Service has charged Lugovoi and Kovtun with Litvinenko’s murder. Putin, however, has refused to allow them to be extradited from Moscow. In 2007 Britain expelled four Russian diplomats in protest, with Russia following suit. Neither of the two suspects will take part in the inquiry. They say they are innocent.

10.08am GMT

Just over eight years after Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer and MI6 informant based in London, was killed by – as he claimed shortly before his slow death from apparent radiation poisoning – agents of the Russian state, a public inquiry opens into his alleged murder.

The inquiry will take place at the high court in London for the next 10 weeks. What is it all about? Well, a very good place to start is this explanatory video made by my colleagues, Luke Harding and Guy Grandjean.

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Spyware and smartphones: how abusive men track their partners

Apps offer abusers a terrifying new toolbox to control their partners and exes. Phone software allows them to follow people’s movements, monitor their calls, texts and emails – and even watch them

Out for dinner on an overseas business trip thousands of miles from the UK, Isobel answered the call on her mobile expecting to speak to her children. Instead, she heard the voice of her estranged husband, whom she was in the process of divorcing after years of violence in which she had been punched, kicked, strangled, pulled around by her hair and thrown down the stairs.

“Before the children came on the line, he told me exactly where I was – which city, in which country, and which restaurant I was sitting in,” she says. “I was absolutely beside myself. I was just so overwhelmed with fear, wondering how the hell he could pinpoint me like this. I asked how he knew and he said: ‘I can find you on your iPhone.’”

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Posted in Crime, Domestic Violence, Life and style, Mobile phones, Smartphones, Society, Surveillance, Technology, Women, World news | Comments Off