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Putin Blamed For Litvinenko Poisoning At Inquiry's Start

Aleksandr Litvinenko, then an officer of Russia's Federal Security Service, attends a news conference in Moscow in November 1998.

A public inquiry into former Russian spy Aleksandr Litvinenko’s death has heard that he had been murdered for trying to "expose the corruption" at the heart of Russia's "mafia state."

Speaking at the start of the inquiry in London on January 27, Ben Emmerson, the lawyer for Litvinenko's widow, Marina, said, Russian President Vladimir Putin "should be unmasked by this inquiry as nothing more than a common criminal dressed up as a head of state."

Litvinenko died several weeks after drinking tea poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope at a London hotel on November 1, 2006.

Two Russian suspects, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, have denied any involvement.

Russia has refused to extradite the two, while the Kremlin has always denied involvement in Litvinenko's death.

The inquiry is expected to last about two months.

Based on reporting by Reuters and the BBC
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