Alexander Litvinenko was a fugitive officer of the Russian secret service. In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering the assassination of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested twice but the charges were dismissed. He fled to London where he worked as a journalist and as a consultant for the British intelligence services. Presumably safe in asylum in the UK, Litvinenko accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of ordering the October 2006 murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. One month later, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and died of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210.
Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, won the right for an inquest into her husband’s death in London but “the inquest was repeatedly set back by issues relating to examinable evidence.” A public inquiry began in January 2015. Norman Dombey, emeritus professor of theoretical physics at the University of Sussex, said the polonium found in Litvinenko’s body was produced at a closed nuclear facility in the city of Sarov, 450 miles south-east of Moscow. “Its Soviet-era Avangard plant was the only place in the world with a polonium ‘production line,’” Dombey said.