Kovtun decides not to testify by video link in London court

Russian businessman Dmitry Kovtun has said he will be unable to give evidence by video link at a hearing in London's Royal Courts of Justice as part of the public inquiry into the death of a former FSB (Federal Security Service) officer, Alexander Litvinenko.

Russian businessman Dmitry Kovtun has said he will be unable to give evidence by video link at a hearing in London's Royal Courts of Justice as part of the public inquiry into the death of a former FSB (Federal Security Service) officer, Alexander Litvinenko.

"I will not be able to give evidence either today or tomorrow or after tomorrow. This is not my fault. It is not me who is organizing these processes. This had to be done by the competent British authorities jointly with Russia's, this was not done, so there will be no video link," Kovtun told Interfax on July 27.

"I am grateful to Judge Robert Owen for having granted me the status of a core participant and taken into consideration a number of circumstances which I pointed out and require further investigation. But the situation is such as to make me unable to testify by video link," Kovtun said.

It was reported that Owen gave Kovtun until Monday noon to finally decide whether or not he would testify.

Initially it was expected that Kovtun would testify from Moscow by video link on July 27-29. In March 2015, he announced his consent to speak in court.

The businessman stressed that he resides in Russia and must abide by Russian laws.

In this context, Kovtun said that he had sent a number of letters to the London court, asking for "a guarantee that by giving evidence by video link from Russia I will not violate the Russian laws," i.e. whether all the necessary procedures were agreed upon.

The British authorities replied they could provide no guarantee and do not know how lawful this would be, Kovtun said.

"Then I asked my lawyer, who said that I will violate (the Russian laws) if I give evidence not in accordance with Article 457 of the Russian Criminal Code (the execution of a request for legal assistance in Russia). Besides, I could be in breach of Article 310 of the Russian Criminal Code (divulging information pertaining to a preliminary inquiry), since the Russian inquiry into the death of Litvinenko is still ongoing," Kovtun said.

The businessman dismissed several media reports stating that he had sought the status of a core participant in order to gain access to the case files.

"I am not familiar with these files. At first I did not even try to enter this program because a system failure had occurred. I did not receive new passwords for system entry until last Friday. But I will not enter this program unless Sir Owen, having taken into account the new circumstances in the case and my non-participation in the trial, agrees to me receiving these files," Kovtun said.

The businessman reiterated that he does not consider himself responsible for the death of Litvinenko.

"The most important thing is to establish when and where Litvinenko was poisoned. Proving that he had vomited and had been poisoned earlier, three days before meeting with us (Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi) would clarify many things. This should be further investigated," Kovtun said.

In June 2015, Kovtun told Interfax that he had been assigned the status of "a core participant" in the trial ofthe Litvinenko case and would give evidence in a London court by video link from Moscow on July 27-29, 2015.

Kovtun said Litvinenko's death was "an inadvertent suicide."

Alexander Litvinenko, who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, died in London on November 23, 2006. A postmortem revealed that he died from polonium poisoning.

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