A British inquiry reported on Thursday that it is highly likely that Russian President Putin ordered the poisoning of Mr. Litvinenko with polonium-210 because of “antagonism” between the two men. Home Secretary Theresa May said the murder was a “blatant and unacceptable” breach of international law. Alexander Litvinenko, who had turned on his former KGB colleague Putin, died three weeks after drinking tea laced with polonium-210 at a London hotel in November 2006. The cause of death was acute radiation syndrome, and his rapid decline touched off a frantic effort to find out if anyone else in the British capital was exposed to the deadly toxin.
There is a “stong possibility” that Russia’s FSB security service, the successor agency to the notorious KGB, directed the killing, Judge Robert Owen wrote in his 326-page report. The report also names Russian politicians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun as the prime suspects who carried out the poisoning. The pair later returned to Russia. Sir Robert Owen, the public inquiry chairman, said he was “sure” Mr Litvinenko’s murder had been carried out by the two men and that they were probably acting under the direction of Moscow’s FSB intelligence service, and approved by the organisation’s chief, Nikolai Patrushev, as well as the Russian president. Putin awarded Lugovoi with a medal for “services to the motherland,” citing him for “courage and bravery displayed in the performance of his professional duty under conditions fraught with risk for his life.”
Dmitry Preskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, said Moscow’s official response to the report will happen through “diplomatic channels”, the Russian news agency Interfax was quoted as saying. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the public inquiry was “politicised”.
We regret that the purely criminal case was politicised and overshadowed the general atmosphere of bilateral relations.”
The use of polonium-210 was “at the very least a strong indicator of state involvement” as it had to be made in a nuclear reactor, the report said. Moscow has continued to deny a role in the murder of the former spy, who continually targeted President Putin with strong personal public criticism and charges of corruption. Litvinenko’s widow, Marina stood outside the High Court and said she was pleased that the words uttered by her husband on his deathbed when he accused the Russian president have been proven by an English court. She called for British Prime Minister David Cameron to take urgent steps against Russian agents operating inside Britain in light of the report.
I’m calling immediately for expulsion from the UK of all Russian intelligence operatives … based at the London embassy I’m also calling for the imposition of targeted economic sanctions and travel bans against named individuals including Mr. (former FSB chief Nikolai) Patrushev and Mr. Putin.”
The British government appointed Owen to head a public inquiry into the slaying, which soured relations between London and Moscow. He heard from dozens of witnesses during months of public hearings last year, and also saw secret British intelligence evidence. Announcing his findings at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Owen said that “there can be no doubt that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun” in the Pine Bar of London’s luxury Millennium Hotel on Nov. 1, 2006. He also charged that the pair had failed in an attempt to poison Litvinenko weeks earlier.