Putin ‘probably’ approved KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko’s murder

Russia dismisses findings of U.K inquiry report on the 2006 killing of Alexander Litvinenko.

January 21, 2016 03:36 pm | Updated May 19, 2017 12:50 pm IST - LONDON

Among the conclusions of a public inquiry into the death in November 2006 in a London hospital of the former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, is the startling but not entirely substantiated allegation that Russian President Vladmir Putin “probably” approved his murder.

The 329-page report of the inquiry committee, chaired by Sir Robert Owens, was presented by Home Secretary Theresa May to the House of Commons on Thursday. The panel was set up on July 22, 2014.

The report has found Andrey Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun guilty of committing the murder of Mr. Litvinenko by poisoning his cup of tea with Polonium-210 during a meeting of the three at a hotel in Mayfair on November 23. There were “several reasons why organisations and individuals within the Russian state might have wished to target Mr. Litvinenko, including to the point of killing him, by late 2006,” the report states. Along with Mr. Putin, the then chief of the Russian intelligence service FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, also “probably approved” the operation, according to the report.

Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun, who are currently in Russia, have denied killing Mr. Litvinenko. They refused to give evidence before the inquiry. Though wanted for questioning in the U.K., Russia never agreed to their extradition. Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Secretary May said the “deeply disturbing” conclusions of the Inquiry confirmed that the murder was a “state-sponsored act” by Russia. “It goes without saying that this was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour,” she said.

The British government would protest to Russia “in the strongest possible terms.”

The British government has frozen the assets of the two individuals.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson has dismissed the findings of the report, according to TASS news agency. “We regret that the purely criminal case has been politicised and has marred the entire atmosphere of bilateral relations,” spokesperson Maria Zakharova said. Mr. Lugovoi has called the allegations against him “absurd.”

“The whole process turned into a theatrical farce with prolonged intermissions.,” he told TASS. Mr. Litvinenko was an officer of the FSB, the successor to the KGB. An outspoken critic of the Kremlin and Mr. Putin, he defected to England with his wife and child in 2000 where the family received political asylum.

Sir Owen’s report states that his public disclosures in the U.K. accusing the FSB of responsibility for the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and its collusion in organised crime were some of the reasons why sections of the Russian state wanted to see him eliminated.

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