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Putin probably approved ex-spy’s murder – UK inquiry

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LONDON — Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved the operation by Russian officials to kill former spy Alexander Litvinenko, a detailed UK inquiry has concluded.

Robert Owen, who conducted the inquiry, wrote that he was “sure” that two former Russian officials poisoned Litvinenko at a London hotel with highly radioactive polonium-210.

And Owen wrote that he was also “sure” that the two men who poisoned Litvinenko in 2006 — Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, the first a former KGB and FSB employee, the latter a former Russian army officer — were acting on behalf of others, probably the Russian spy service, the FSB.

Who was Alexander Litvinenko?

Litvinenko was a former Russian security agent who came to Britain in 2000 after turning whistleblower on the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB.

According to his widow, Marina Litvinenko, he then started working for Britain’s security services. Litvinenko died November 23, 2006, at the age of 44.

What caused his death?

In a deathbed statement, read to the media by a friend, Litvinenko blamed Putin for ordering his poisoning with the rare radioactive substance polonium-210, saying it was slipped into his tea at the Mayfair hotel in 2006.

He said: “You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.”

The Kremlin has always denied the accusation, as have the two chief suspects, Lugovoi and Kovtun.

Whom does the family hold responsible?

Putin, whom Litvinenko criticized repeatedly.

Marina Litvinenko and her legal team pointed the finger at Putin repeatedly in statements to the inquiry that has now concluded.

Read more: Litvinenko, not first Putin critic to end up dead — or last

“My husband was killed by agents of the Russian state in the first-ever act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of London,” Marina Litvinenko said. “This could not have happened without knowledge or consent of Mr. Putin.”

And in his closing statement, the Litvinenko family’s lawyer, Ben Emmerson said that “no amount of synthetic defiance” from Putin could hide the truth revealed through the inquiry.

Who set up the inquest?

It was set up in February 2014 by Home Secretary Theresa May, and chaired by retired High Court Judge Robert Owen, 71.

Among the many questions the inquest was directed to answer were these: “Possible involvement of Russian state agencies in Alexander Litvinenko’s death.” and “Possible involvement of UK intelligence agencies in Alexander Litvinenko’s death.”

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