The British government is still trying to solve the bizarre 2006 poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was apparently not only spying for MI6 but also for Spanish intelligence and his ex-KGB pals. Testimony given today by lawyers at the public inquest of his murder, included claims that he was a "registered and paid" agent of Britain's foreign intelligence arm at the time of his death, and at their request, had been helping Spain investigate activities by the Russian mob in their country. Britain's Home Office would neither confirm nor deny that Litvinenko was working for them or that he was was in fact a "triple agent."
Another lawyer working for the coroner's office claims there is "high-level" evidence that the Russian government ordered Litvinenko's assassination, either as revenge for his criticism of his former bosses, or to silence him from revealing more of their schemes. Counsel Hugh Davies said "the government material does establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state" in Litvinenko's murder. Moscow has previously denied any involvement.
Litvinenko was considered a traitor by other Russian agents — including his ex-boss, Vladimir Putin — for blowing the whistle on a plot to assassinate a Russian tycoon, among other crimes. He has claimed at various times that two terrorist attacks in Moscow (a 1999 apartment bombing and the deaths of a 130 theatergoers taken hostage in 2002) were orchestrated by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the post-Soviet version of the KGB, to drum up support for the war in Chechnya. Putin ran the FSB in 1999 and personally fired Litvinenko before the spy left Russia and sought asylum in the UK. He also claimed links between the Russian mafia, Putin, and other highly placed government officials in Moscow.
Litvinenko allegedly drank tea laced with the radioactive element polonium during a meeting with other former FSB agents in London more than six years ago. (Polonium is the same element that some conspiracy theorists believe was used to kill Yassir Arafat.) Over the next three weeks, Litvinenko's health slowly deteriorated until he died from radiation poisoning, but not before accusing his fellow ex-KGB contacts of murdering him. Litvinenko's widow, Marnia, has pushed the government for years to continue the investigation, and her campaign led to the current public inquiry. An earlier investigation led to accusations but no charges being filed against the main suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, because Russia refused a request to extradite him.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.