Russian President Vladimir Putin has just awarded the chief suspect in one of the past decade’s most notorious political assassinations a medal of honour, AFP reports.
The Kremlin honored Andrei Lugovoi, a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, for his “great contribution to the development of the Russian parliamentary system and his active role in lawmaking.”
Lugovoi is still wanted in Britain as one of the two chief suspects in the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Litvinenko, a defector from the FSB, Russia’s leading intelligence service, died after being poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London.
After Litvinenko’s defection from the FSB, he moved London where he became an outspoken critic of Putin and his regime. British intelligence believes that Lugovoi personally slipped the polonium into Litvinenko’s tea during a meeting at the Millennium hotel in London in November 2006. Twenty-three days later, Litvinenko died in a London hospital.
Lugovoi was cleared of wrongdoing after a questioning by a British polygrapher in Moscow following the murder. However, the polygrapher has admitted to skewing the results and said that Lugovoi actually failed a portion of the test in which he denied having ever handled polonium-210, the Guardian reports.
Putin giving an award to Lugovoi might be aimed at undermining Britain specifically during its ongoing investigation into the 2006 assassination. London is currently holding public hearings as part of an inquiry into Litvinenko’s death.
Lugovoi is being honored less than two weeks after the murder of prominent Russian dissident Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov, an opposition activist and former deputy prime minister during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, was shot to death on a bridge just 200 yards from the walls of the Kremlin on February 27.
Russian investigators have claimed that Nemtsov was killed by Chechen Islamists.
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