UK links Putin to Litvinenko murder

22 Jan 2016 | Written by Gaurav ; Edited by Vaneet Randhawa

A report by Robert Owen, a retired High Court judge, into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the poisoning and death of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko has linked Russian President Putin to the death.

The report says Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun worked under FSB orders to kill Litvinenko.

The report says there is a "strong circumstantial case" that the Russian government was behind the assassination.

In context: The Litvinenko assassination

Alexander LitvinenkoWho is Alexander Litvinenko?

Alexander Litvinenko was a Soviet military officer who joined the KGB (now the FSB) in 1988.

He rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel when the KGB became the FSB in the 1990s.

His immediate boss was Vladimir Putin, the Chief of the FSB at the time, and the two allegedly had a falling out over alleged corruption within the FSB in the late 1990s.

The KGB and the FSB

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) is responsible for collection of domestic intelligence, counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. It was the successor of the USSR's KGB, which had a similar role and function.
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Serious allegations, escape to UK

1998Serious allegations, escape to UK

In 1998, Litvinenko was arrested on charges of abusing his office, but was released after 9 months in detention.

Upon his release, he wrote a book alleging that the FSB orchestrated the 1999 Moscow bombings to justify the second Chechen war.

In 2000, he fled to UK, where he was granted asylum and subsequently began working with British intelligence and other Russian dissidents.

Death The mysterious death of Litvinenko

In November 2006, Litivinenko met with Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, former colleagues from the Russian intelligence services and had tea with them at London's Millenium Hotel.

Soon after he fell gravely ill, and passed away three weeks later on 23 November 2006.

British authorities concluded through investigations that Litvinenko was poisoned by ingesting Polonium-210, a radioactive isotope that is lethal in small doses.

What is Polonium-210?

Polonium-210 is a radioactive isotope that is synthesized in a nuclear reactor and emits highly hazardous alpha particles. There are small amounts of Polonium-210 in the soil and in the atmosphere. It is lethal if ingested.

Inquiry Who killed Litvinenko?

An inquiry was launched into Litvinenko's death, and in 2007, Britain's director of public prosecutions found Andrei Lugovoi guilty of the assassination.

However, Moscow refused to extradite Lugovoi, severely straining relations between Britain and Russia.

In January 2015, a public inquiry began in the Royal Courts of Justice in London under Sir Robert Owen, to examine the Russian government's involvement in Litvinenko's assassination.

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Why was he killed?

Investigators claim that Litvinenko's open criticism of President Vladimir Putin, and his defection to British intelligence, led Moscow to assassinate him in order to "set an example" for other dissidents and ex spies.

22 Jan 2016UK links Putin to Litvinenko murder

Report What does the report say?

Sir Robert Owen, who chaired the inquiry stated that Putin and Nikolai Patrushev, the then head of the FSB, "probably" sanctioned Litvinenko's death.

He added that the use of Polonium-210 was "at the very least a strong indicator of state involvement" as it had to be made in a nuclear reactor.

The inquiry report also highlights the "personal antagonism" between President Putin and Litvinenko.

Reactions What were the reactions to the inquiry report?

British Home Secretary Theresa May said the "murder" was a "blatant and unacceptable" breach of international law.

British PM Cameron stated the UK would impose asset freezes on Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that "We regret that the purely criminal case was politicised and overshadowed the general atmosphere of bilateral relations."

23 Jan 2016Counter charges fly high amongst Russia-Britain diplomats

The British Foreign Office summoned the Russian Ambassador to express its "deep concern" regarding the findings of the report on Litvinenko's death.

Russia has called the probe report as "blatant provocation" by the British government.

Russian Ambassador to Britain said that his country "will never accept anything arrived at in secret and based on the evidence not tested in an open court of law".