The widow of murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died after ingesting radioactive material, has told of her husband’s slow death and of earlier threats he had received in London, including an arson attack on their home.
Marina Litvinenko, 52, brushed away tears as she told the public inquiry about her husband’s deteriorating health after he fell ill and began vomiting at home on November 1 2006.
“He complained ‘I can’t breathe’,” Mrs Litvinenko told the inquiry of the first few days he became ill. “Even though it was quite a cold day he wanted to open all the windows as he said ‘I need more oxygen’.”
After he was taken to hospital, Mrs Litvinenko said she became increasingly concerned after he complained about pain in his throat. “His hair started to fall [out],” she told the inquiry.
Litvinenko, a former Russian spy and Kremlin critic who was living in Britain after fleeing Russia, died in November 2006 after ingesting radioactive polonium-210 in a cup of tea at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair while meeting former Russian spies Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun.
The two men have been named as suspects, but deny wrongdoing and remain in Russia, which has refused to extradite them.
The public inquiry has been set up to examine how Litvinenko died. It has already been told that Litvinenko may have been the subject of an earlier poisoning attempt in October 2006.
In his final conversation with her in the hospital, Litvinenko “smiled so sadly”, Mrs Litvinenko told the inquiry, adding that she told him “don’t worry, tomorrow morning I will come back”. He replied: “I love you so much,” she told the inquiry.
Mrs Litvinenko said that allegations her husband may have poisoned himself by taking delivery of polonium-210 were “not possible” as he “would not do any illegal thing in this country”. She also dismissed suggestions that he may have committed suicide. “I am absolutely sure it has never been in his mind,” she said.
Earlier Mrs Litvinenko gave evidence of threats made to them while they were still living in Russia and later in London.
The inquiry was also shown a video of Russian forces who appeared to be using a photograph of Litvinenko for target practice.
In Russia their car was kicked by youths and, months after they came to London seeking political asylum, a man pressed the doorbell of their flat claiming to be from the Russian embassy, Mrs Litvinenko said.
In 2004 their London home was firebombed and on another occasion a former associate from Russia’s FSB security services met Litvinenko and suggested he “provide people to assassinate Putin”, his widow said.
Litvinenko refused and reported the incident to the police, the inquiry heard.
Another former secret service contact sent Litvinenko an email telling him he had been sentenced to “out of court elimination” and telling him to “get your will ready in advance”, the inquiry heard.
The inquiry also heard that, in the final days of his life, Litvinenko, who had been baptised into the Russian Orthodox church, began to show an increasing interest in Islam.
He discussed it with his close Chechen friend Akhmed Zakayev, who was a Muslim, saying he wanted to be buried in Chechen ground. An imam was called in the final days of his life and Litvinenko “could call himself a Muslim”, Mrs Litvinenko told the inquiry.
The hearing continues.
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