Russians Are Paying Litvinenko Suspect's Legal Fees, Says Widow; ...as She Admits for First Time: My Husband Was British Spy

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Byline: Robert Verkaik SECURITY EDITOR

THE Russian government is funding a team of top British lawyers to represent the prime suspect at the inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, his widow has claimed.

The allegation follows the decision by a coroner to allow Andrei Lugovoi to give evidence at the inquest into the polonium poisoning of Mr Litvinenko in November 2006.

Although Lugovoi has refused to come to Britain to stand trial for murder, he will use a video link to speak at the inquest.

Marina Litvinenko described her husband's alleged killer as 'an agent of the Russian state' who will be fully supported by the Kremlin.

Last night, she appealed for public funds to match Russia's resources.

Lugovoi, now a member of the Russian parliament, has appointed a team of top barristers and solicitors to represent him at the inquest, which is expected to last several months.

Mrs Litvinenko said: 'The evidence collected by the police will be weighed against the story presented by [Mr Litvinenko's] accused murderer and his sponsors, with the unlimited resources of the Russian state at their disposal.'

She added: 'Compared to my adversaries, I am severely constrained. This I why I am appealing to the public for help.'

Lugovoi is being represented by Jessica Simor, a leading human rights barrister who works with Cherie Booth QC at Matrix Chambers. Ms Simor is instructed by City law firm McGrigors.

During the inquest, Lugovoi will ask the coroner to explore his claim that Mr Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer who sought asylum in the UK, committed suicide or was murdered by MI6. …