1. ITV Report

Russian state accused of role in Litvinenko murder

Alexander Litvinenko died in hospital in November 2006 Photo: Getty Images

Evidence found by the Government has shown the Russian state was involved in the murder of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, a pre-inquest hearing into the death heard today.

Mr Litvinenko died in November 2006 after his tea was poisoned with a radioactive poison, allegedly during a meeting with two Russians: former KGB contacts Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, in central London.

Prosecutors named Lugovoy as the main suspect in the case but Russia has refused to extradite him to the UK for questioning.

ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery reports:

Hugh Davies, counsel to the inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death, said assessments of confidential material submitted by the British Government had:

established a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko

Ben Emmerson QC, representing Mr Litvinenko's wife Marina, said the inquest should also consider whether MI6 failed in its duty to protect against a "real and immediate risk to life".

The pre-inquest hearing also heard some details of Mr Litvinenko's work with MI6: he had been working with the agency for a "number of years" and was working with the Spanish secret service investigating the Russian mafia

Litvinenko was paid by both British and Spanish secret services, into a joint bank account he shared with his wife, the court heard.

He had been due to travel to Spain with Mr Lugovoy shortly before his death to provide intelligence in an investigation into the Russian mafia's links to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Mr Emmerson QC.

After the pre-inquest hearing, his wife Marina said she was pleased the alleged involvement of the Russian government would now be considered by the inquest. She said:

We've been saying this many times but this is the first time this question has been raised in court. I appreciate all that was done today and I'm looking forward to any decision which will be taken by the coroner after today's hearing.

The inquest will be held next year before High Court judge Sir Robert Owen.