Litvinenko inquiry suggests a change in foreign policy

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The announcement of an inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko suggests the recent tragedy has altered the government's attitude towards Russia.

Theresa May has announced that an inquiry is to be launched into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006. The announcement comes just five days after the crash of MH17, a plane bound for Kuala Lumpar, which resulted in the death of all 298 passengers.

The plane is thought to have been shot down by rebels in Ukraine, armed by Russia, as part of the continuing war between Russia and Ukraine. The war resulted from Russia’s attempt to take over the Crimea.

Litvinenko, a former KGB spy, was granted refuge in the UK in 2000, following his public accusation of his superiors for ordering the assassination of Russian tycoon and oligarch, Boris Berezovsky.

Litvinenko died on November 26th 2006, following radioactive potassium-210 poisoning after he fell suddenly ill on the first of December.

He had met two former KGB agents, Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy, earlier that day. The British government called for the extradition of Lugovoy to stand trial for murder but Russian officials declined this request.

The new inquiry will look into whether the Russian state was behind the death of Litvinenko. It will not focus on whether Britain could have done anything to prevent the death, but will focus on Russia’s role in the murder.

It is thought that he government has previously avoided the inquiry to encourage their relationship with Russia.

However the recent tragedy, the shooting down of flight MH17, may have altered that position, with the relationship between Putin and Britain strained.

Calls have been made for Russia to answer for the disaster. The United States stopped just short of blaming Russia for the tragedy. However the White House has suggested the involvement of Kremlin backed separatists in Ukraine, in the disaster. Hilary Clinton claimed that we must: "put Putin on notice that he has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by."

The announcement of the inquiry suggests that Britain will not tiptoe around Russia in order to maintain good relations, but will take action to see justice served for both past and current crimes.

Litvinenko’s wife, Marina Litvinenko, was delighted with the news. She has spent the past seven years campaigning for an inquiry to take place, continually stressing the need for someone to be held accountable for her husband’s death. She said: "It sends a message to Sasha's murderers: no matter how strong and powerful you are, truth will win out in the end and you will be held accountable for your crimes.

Previously inquiries have been denied on the basis that confidential information, which might affect the country’s security, could be shared. The public inquiry will be able to consider private evidence in a closed hearing. This means that sensitive information will be able to remain private.

Sir Robert Owen, a high court judge, who is the current coroner in the inquest over Litvinenko’s death, will chair the inquiry.

It is hoped that through this inquest, and the calling to account of all associated with the recent dreadful events, will lead to justice being served for all the victims and to a greater transparency from governments.