Alexander Litvinenko: Putin ‘probably’ approved murder of russian spy, UK inquiry finds

Alexander Litvinenko: Putin 'probably' approved murder of russian spy, UK inquiry finds

President Vladimir Putin “probably” approved the assassination of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London, a public inquiry has found.

Concluding the inquiry, Sir Robert Owen said it was likely the Russian leader signed off on the killing of the former spy following a long-running feud.

His 300-page report said Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were probably acting under the direction of Moscow’s FSB intelligence service when they poisoned the 43-year-old with radioactive polonium 210 at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.

Singling out then-FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev alongside Mr Putin, Sir Robert wrote: “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 and also by President Putin.”

Following the conclusion of the inquiry’s verdict Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina Litvinenko, called for “targeted economic sanctions” against Russia and a travel ban on President Vladimir Putin.

During the inquiry, Mr Litvinenko’s death was described as “a nuclear attack on the streets of London”.

Traces of the polonium which killed him were found at numerous locations including offices, hotels and planes.

Mr Litvinenko ingested the poison while drinking tea after meeting two former KGB colleagues at the hotel.

He had been an outspoken critic of Mr Putin and from his death bed accused the president of involvement in the poisoning.

It was a claim rejected by the Kremlin as politically motivated.

If today’s findings suggest there was high level Russian involvement in the death, it would further sour what are already difficult diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia.

Russian ambassador dismisses inquiry as ‘whitewash’

The Russian Ambassador to London has called the inquiry a “whitewash”.

Speaking outside the foreign office after he was summoned to a meeting by Europe minister David Lidington, Alexander Yakovenko said the findings represented a “gross provocation” by Britain.

He said: “The length of time that it took to close this case makes us believe it to be a whitewash of the British special services’ incompetence.”

He described at as “absolutely unacceptable” for the report to conclude the Russian state was involved in Mr Litvinenko’s death.

He added: “This gross provocation of the British authorities cannot help hurting our bilateral relations.”

His meeting at the Foreign Office lasted less than an hour.

Mr Lidington told Mr Yakovenko “the Russian State’s probable involvement in this murder was deeply disturbing, demonstrating a flagrant disregard for UK law, international law and standards of conduct, and the safety of UK citizens”, a spokeswoman for the foreign office said.

Sportact Editors and Wire Services