A British judge says Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved a plan by Russia’s FSB security service to kill former agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Judge Robert Owen said on Thursday in a lengthy report that he was certain Litvinenko was given tea laced with a fatal dose of polonium-210 at a London hotel in November 2006.
He said there was a “strong probability” that the FSB directed the killing and the operation was “probably approved” by Putin.
Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, speaking outside London’s High Court, said she was “very pleased” with the judge’s conclusion.
“The words my husband spoke on his deathbed when he accused Mr. Putin have been proved by an English court,” the BBC quoted her as saying.
Two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, have been accused of killing Litvinenko, an accusation both of them deny.
Russia has consistently denied requests for the two men to be extradited to the UK.
Sir Robert Owen, who chaired the inquiry, wrote in a 300-page report: “Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me I find that the FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev,” then-FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, “and also by President Putin.”
You can listen to Owen’s statement on Litvinenko’s death below:
Russia’s foreign ministry released a statement, translated by The Guardian’s Shaun Walker, which said:
Of course we need time to carefully study this document, after which we’ll give a proper evaluation.
However, I can say that the Russian position on this issue is well known and unchanged. We regret that a purely criminal case has been politicised and has darkened the general atmosphere of our bilateral relations. It’s obvious that the decision to end the coroner’s investigation and start the public hearing had a clear political subtext. The process, despite its name, was not transparent either for Russia or for the general public, given the fact that some material was heard in closed session under the pretext of its secret nature.
Taking this into account, there was little grounds to expect that the final report of a process that was politically motivated and highly opaque, and prepared with a pre-determined “correct” result in mind, would suddenly turn out to be objective and balanced.
Speaking in the House of Commons, shadow home secretary Andy Burnham described the act as “an unparalleled act of state-sponsored terrorism.”
Home Secretary Theresa May described Russia’s “continued failure” to bring Lugovoi and Kovtun to justice as “unacceptable.”
May also announced the Treasury had agreed to freeze assets belonging to Lugovoi and Kovtun.
The Metropolitan Police issued its own statement, confirming that there were “outstanding warrants for Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun.”
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