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Suspect in Russian spy murder pulls out of inquest

MOSCOW — The main suspect in the grisly poisoning of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London withdrew Tuesday from the British inquest into the murder, saying that political pressure and state secrecy were preventing him from clearing his name.

Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer turned fierce Kremlin critic, died in 2006 after drinking tea poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 at a London hotel. His family says he was working for Britain’s intelligence services, and believes the Russian state was behind his death.

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Britain has named Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB officer and Russian lawmaker, and businessman Dmitry Kovtun, who met Litvinenko hours before he fell ill, as the main suspects. Both deny their involvement and have refused to attend the inquest, though they have sent legal representatives. Russia has turned down British requests to extradite the two men.

Parts of the inquest have been held in secret after the British government cited security reasons, over the objections of Litvinenko’s family and media.

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