UK judge: Putin probably approved assassination of ex-Russian spy
Once KGB, always KGB.
A British inquiry into the 2006 assassination of ex-KBG agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 has concluded that the hit was ordered by the Russian FSB – the successor to the KGB – and was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin.
Litvinenko died from drinking green tea laced with the radioactive substance. He was in the presence of two ex-KGB officers when he ingested the fatal drink.
Litvinenko, 43, an outspoken critic of Putin who fled Russia, died after drinking green tea laced with the rare radioactive isotope at London's Millennium Hotel.
An inquiry led by British judge Robert Owen found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, poisoned Litvinenko as part of an operation directed by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir to the Soviet-era KGB.
"The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin," Owen said.
"I have concluded that there is a strong probability that when Mr Lugovoy poisoned Mr Litvinenko, he did so under the direction of the FSB. I have further concluded that Mr Kovtun was also acting under FSB direction," he said.
The judge said he was sure Lugovoy and Kovtun had placed the polonium 210 in the teapot at the Millennium Hotel's Pine Bar on November 1, 2006.
Traces of the highly radioactive substance were found at several sites across the city.
The Kremlin has always denied any involvement but the claim that Putin directly ordered a killing of an opponent with a radioactive isotope in a major Western capital provoked immediate censure from Moscow.
Richard Horwell, the lawyer acting for London police, told the inquiry the Russian state might have wanted Litvinenko dead for many reasons, including his defection to Britain, his accusations of Kremlin corruption, his sympathy for Chechen separatists and his claims about Putin's lifestyle.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said what it called Britain's politicized, biased and opaque handling of the Litvinenko case had clouded relations.
The death of Litvinenko marked a post-Cold War low point in Anglo-Russian relations, and ties have never recovered, marred further by Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It also raised serious domestic security concerns, Britain now being home to a large number of Russian dissidents opposed to Putin and to exiled "oligarchs".
This is not the first time the Russians have murdered a regime opponent in Great Britain. In 1978, a prominent Soviet dissident, Georgi Markov, was murdered James Bond-style in London; he was pricked with an umbrella that fired a ricin-filled pellet into his body. He died three days later.
Putin has murdered dozens of journalists, political opponents, businessmen, and activists since his rise to power. This has made him not only the most feared man in Russia, but the most admired as well. But the problem with killing off your enemies is that any remaining opponents will try to kill off you. There has been one known attempt on his life and several other possible efforts to kill him.
In this sense, what goes around comes around.