Litvinenko’s widow drops human rights lawyer ahead of inquest

The wife of murdered russian spy Alexander Litvinenko is understood to have dropped her longstanding human rights lawyer Louise Christian of Christian Khan in favour of a Russian firm in the West End.

Alexander Litvinenko
Alexander Litvinenko

A source close to the situation told The Lawyer that Marina Litvinenko will now use Elena Tsirlina, the principal of human rights law boutique Blokh Solicitors, for the long-awaited inquest into her husband’s death. The inquest has been set for early 2013. Coroner Mr Justice Robert Owen said the inquest will examine the theory that the spy was murdered by the Russian state nearly six years ago.

The coroner’s legal team consists of Hugh Davies of Three Raymond Buildings, Andrew O’Connor of Temple Garden Chambers, and solictors Martin Smith and Tim Suter of Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW).

Christian, the co-founder of criminal firm Christian Khan, is understood to have been a solicitor for the Litvinenko family since 2007. An insider said the switch is likely to be “for financial reasons” as Blokh Solicitors, a two-lawyer firm specialising in the Russian/CIS market, has a much lower profile on the London market.

Mrs Litvinenko is understood to be keeping her counsel Ben Emmerson QC, a founding member of Matrix Chambers and a UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights. Emmerson was not available for comment at the time of writing.

The death of Mr Litvinenko, a Russian security officer who fled to Britain in 2000, led to a major diplomatic incident in 2006 as the Kremlin was accused of posioning the 44-year old. Mr Litvinenko died after ingesting radioactive substance polonium-210 following a meeting with former colleagues in London’s Millennium Hotel.

In 2010 Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky was awarded libel damages of £150,000 over “savage” allegations that he was behind the murder of his friend Mr Litvinenko.

Both Tsirlina and Christian declined to comment.