Vladimir Putin “probably” approved the killing of a former Russian spy by radioactive poisoning in London, a British inquiry has found.
Alexander Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning in November 2006 after drinking tea contaminated with the substance polonium-210.
A long-awaited report by British judge Sir Robert Owen into the murder found that found that it was carried out by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence service, and ordered by its chief Nikolai Patrushev.
“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,” the report read.
There was also “undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism” between Putin and Litvinenko, it added.
Litvinenko’s widow Marina said she was “pleased” her husband’s deathbed words had been backed by an English court and called on the U.K. government to take action against Putin and other Russian officials.
The report identified two men – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun – as having carried out the murder and that their use of polonium-210 was “at the very least a strong indicator of state involvement”, because the substance would have to be made in a nuclear reactor.
Litvinenko, himself a former FSB agent, claimed asylum in the U.K. in 2000. He later became a British citizen and wrote a book accusing his former bosses of extra-judicial murders.
He died in intensive care on 23 Nov. 2006, three weeks after drinking tea during a meeting with Lugovoi and Kovtun at London’s Millennium hotel.
Speaking outside the court where Owen’s report was announced on Thursday morning, Marina Litvinenko said her husband had accused Putin of his murder upon his death.
She said: “I’m of course very pleased that the words my husband spoke on his deathbed when he accused Mr Putin of his murder have been proved through an English court with the highest standards of independency and fairness. But now it’s time for [U.K. premier] David Cameron.
“I’m calling immediately for the expulsion from the U.K. of all Russian intelligence operatives whether from the FSB who murdered Sasha or from other Russian agencies based in the London embassy.
“I’m also calling for the imposition of targeted economic sanctions and travel bans against named individuals, including Mr. Patrushev and Mr. Putin.
“I received a letter last night from the Home Secretary promising action. It is unthinkable that the Prime Minister would do nothing in the face of [the] damning findings of Sir Robert Owen.”
Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to provide the U.K. government’s official response later on Thursday.