A British inquiry has found evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the poisoning of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
The inquiry, headed by senior Judge Robert Owen, found on Thursday morning that Putin most likely OK’d the Russian intelligence operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko, according to the Washington Post.
Mr. Litvinenko was poisoned by Putin, as it is implicated in the British report, after drinking green tea, in which Putin’s agents slipped rare radioactive isotope polonium-210, at London’s posh Millennium Hotel, shortly after he had obtained British citizenship.
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The inquiry concluded that a former KGB operative and his fellow Russian poisoned Mr. Litvinenko, and that the Russian State is responsible for his death. However, the Kremlin has denied any involvement in killing the former KGB operative-turned-British intelligence agent ever since the incident in 2006.
Shortly before dying on his deathbed, Mr. Litvinenko told detectives that it was Putin who had directly ordered his killing. And today’s British report coincides with Mr. Litvinenko’s claim that Putin approved the poisoning.
Putin will react in a “very angry” way to the report
Political experts are already predicting that Britain must expect an “angry” response from Vladimir Putin for blaming him for the death of the ex-KGB spy.
“Everything which blames or is seen as an accusation against Russia is perceived in a very personal way by Vladimir Putin,” Igor Sutyagin from London’s Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) said, adding that Putin “will react in a very angry way which will not help to improve relations with the UK.”
However, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov claims that Putin himself and the Russian government as a whole express no interest in senior Judge Robert Owen’s independent inquiry into the poisoning of the former KGB operative-turned-British intelligence agent.
“It is not currently on the list of topics that present an interest to us,” Peskov told reporters when asked about the inquiry. “It is an inquiry that is taking place in Great Britain and in this case it is not a topic that is of interest to us – and that is on our agenda.”
Putin put thousands of Londoners at risk: British MP
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was the one who chaired a meeting of security chiefs before publishing the findings of the inquiry, which blames the Russian State in poisoning the former KGB operative-turned-British intelligence agent. The agenda of the meeting included a discussion if Britain should take any action.
Russia, and Putin personally, wanted Mr. Litvinenko dead for many reasons, according to Richard Horwell, the lawyer acting for London police. Horwell told the public inquiry that the top one reason was Mr. Litvinenko’s defection to Britain. Other reasons include the former KGB spy’s accusations of Kremlin corruption, his support for Chechen separatists and his strong claims about Putin’s lifestyle.
Andy Burnham, the Labour MP, told Parliament on Thursday that Putin’s poisoning of Mr Litvinenko with radioactive material exposed thousands of Londoners to unacceptable risk.
“The Russian state at its highest level sanctioned the killing of a British citizen on the streets of our capital city and in so doing exposed thousands of Londoners to unacceptable levels of risk,” he said.
Putin had a personal motive to kill Litvinenko
Ben Emmerson, the lawyer for Mr. Litvinenko’s widow Marina, said the ex-KBG spy was planning to help Spanish intelligence expose alleged Kremlin links to the Russian organized crime groups, according to the Washington Post.
While experts say 97 percent of the world’s production of polonium – the poisonous substances with which Mr. Litvinenko was killed – was made in Russia’s Avangard nuclear facility, Emmerson also said that there are irrefutable evidence that link the two named assassins, Andrei Lugovoi and Dimitry Kovtun, to traces of polonium detected around London.
According to the inquiry, the traces of polonium were found around London in the places visited by Lugovoi and Kovtun: offices, hotels, planes and the Arsenal soccer stadium. However, the two named assassins deny involvement.
Lugovoi, a former KGB officer, is now a member of the Russian parliament. When asked about the inquiry on Thursday, he dismissed the allegations against him as “absurd.”
Kovtun, now a rich businessman, has not commented on the findings of the inquiry. He told Russian reporters on Thursday that he needed more time to learn about the inquiry comprised of 328 pages before responding to it.
Inquiry: Putin most likely gave direct order
Putin had a personal motive for wanting Mr. Litvinenko dead, according to the inquiry. It states that the Russian President most likely approved the assassination of the former KGB operative-turned-British intelligence agent on British soil.
Even though the British report does not directly blame Putin for the death of Mr. Litvinenko, it concluded that there is “strong circumstantial evidence that the Russian State was responsible for Mr. Litvinenko’s death.”
Furthermore, the report states that the assassination operation would likely not have been possible without Putin’s direct order.
“The FSB operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. [Nikolai] Patrushev [then head of the FSB] and also by President Putin,” the inquiry says. Mr. Litvinenko was a British citizen at the time of his murder, and had already spent a few years on the payroll of MI6, after his decision to defect from Russia to Britain in 2000.
After the findings of the inquiry were released, Marina Litvinenko, the ex-KGB spy’s widow, urged David Cameron to expel Russian intelligence officials from Britain and to impose new economic sanctions against Russia.
“I am of course very pleased that the words my husband spoke on his deathbed – when he accused Mr. Putin of his murder – have been proved true,” Marina Litvinenko said, speaking to reporters in London.
However, while the British government should react “quite strongly” to the assassination of a British citizen by the Russians on British soil, “tearing up relations with Russia is almost certainly not in our national interest,” according to Tony Brenton, the British ambassador to Russia at the time of Litvinenko’s death.