LONDON, December 13 - RAPSI. The two-day preliminary hearings aimed at finally forming the final parameters of the inquiry into the death of FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko start in London today.
This inquiry aims to define the reasons and circumstances of Litvinenko's death, rather than punishing those responsible. It was initiated soon after the officer's death in 2006, but the hearings on the merits will not begin until 2013. Several preliminary hearings have already been held in London, as part of the preparations for the inquiry.
The final stage of the preliminary hearings, chaired by High Court Judge Sir Robert Owen, was set for December 13-14.
The primary tasks of preliminary hearings are to decide whether a jury is necessary for the inquiry, to define the order for disclosing documents and evidence, as well as its volume, and to consider the list of versions of Litvinenko's death.
The parties who will be present at the inquiry will include Litvinenko's wife Marina, exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was a close friend and sponsor of Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoy, the main suspect in the case on Litvinenko's murder according to the version of the United Kingdom, the Metropolitan Police Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the UK government.
Litvinenko, who fled to Great Britain in 2000, died on November 23, 2006, at the age of 44, shortly after having tea with his former colleagues Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun in London's Millennium Hotel. Doctors announced that they had found high levels of polonium-210 in Litvinenko's body. The cause of death established after his autopsy has not yet been published.
The Litvinenko case has caused a serious deterioration in UK-Russian relations after Russia refused to extradite Lugovoy, who was charged in Britain with Litvinenko's murder. According to later reports, the UK authorities also requested Kovtun's extradition on the same charges.