A British inquiry into the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko has found that the killing of the former Russian spy was “probably approved” by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Russia’s intelligence agency.
The results of public inquiry, published Thursday, suggest that Putin and Nikolai Patrushev, then the head of FSB, the Russian intelligence agency that succeeded the KGB, signed off on the operation, wrote Judge Robert Owen.
“Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev and also by President Putin,” Owen said.
Litvinenko signed a statement two days before his death that alleged the Russian president had ordered his murder. Thursday’s report is the first public official statement linking Putin to the crime.
Litvinenko, a former KGB agent turned Kremlin critic who fled to Britain, fell suddenly ill in November 2006, a month after drinking tea with two Russian agents in a London hotel. Hospital tests detected the presence of a radioactive poison, polonium-210, in his body. Litvinenko, 44, died three weeks later.
Moscow has always denied involvement, and its reaction to the new report was no different. “We regret that a purely criminal case has been politicized and has darkened the general atmosphere of our bilateral relations,” said Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, according to The Guardian.