Spotlight: British inquiry says Putin 'probably approved' Litvinenko killing

January 22, 2016 10:49 am 

LONDON, Jan. 22 — Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was "deliberately poisoned" and his murder was "probably approved" by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the report of a British public inquiry released Thursday.

Robert Owen, a former judge of the High Court of England and Wales, who led the investigation, said in the report that the operation to kill Litvinenko was "probably approved" by Putin.

"A number of the witnesses who gave evidence during the open sessions of the Inquiry expressed strong views as to President Putin's direct involvement in Mr. Litvinenko's death," the report said.

Litvinenko died aged 43 at a London hotel in 2006, after he was reportedly poisoned with radioactive polonium. He fled to Britain in 2000 before he was granted asylum in 2001 and became a British citizen in October 2006. He had been a fierce critic of the Kremlin and Putin.

Speaking in Davos, British Prime Minister David Cameron said "what happened was absolutely appalling" and Britain would be "toughening" up its reactions against Russia after the inquiry indicated Russian involvement in the death of Litvinenko.

He added that "this report confirms what we've always believed, and what the last Labor government believed at the time of this dreadful murder, which is it was state sponsored action."

However, the prime minister admitted that Britain needed to maintain "some sort of relationship with them (Russia)" to find a solution to the Syria crisis, but the relationship would be handled with "clear eyes and a very cold heart".

At the request of British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Ambassador to Britain Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko was summoned to the Foreign Office on Thursday afternoon to meet British Foreign Office Minister David Lidington, who is responsible for relations with Russia.

"The Minister set out the UK Government's deep concern regarding the findings of the independent Litvinenko Inquiry report," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said after the meeting.

"He made clear that the Inquiry's conclusion concerning the Russian State's probable involvement in this murder was deeply disturbing, demonstrating a flagrant disregard for UK law, international law and standards of conduct, and the safety of UK citizens," she continued.

Speaking at the British Parliament, Home Secretary Theresa May said that "the conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr. Litvinenko is deeply disturbing."

She accused Russia of "a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilized behavior".

She announced that the British government was imposing asset freezes against Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovturn, the two men suspected by the Owen inquiry of poisoning Litvinenko.

A spokesperson for Cameron said that Downing Street was taking the findings of the inquiry "extremely seriously" and that Cameron found the findings "extremely disturbing".

"It is not the way for any state, let alone a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to behave. Regrettably, these findings confirm what we and previous governments already believed," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that Britain is "considering what further action we should take."

Meanwhile, in response to the report, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Thursday refuted the allegations, saying that Britain's handling of the case was "opaque" and "politicized."

She added the process of the British inquiry was "not transparent, neither for the Russian side nor for the public".

"We lament the fact that a purely criminal case has been politicized and put a strain on our bilateral relationships," she said.

"It is obvious that the decision to stop the coroner's investigation and start public hearings had a politicized basis," she noted.

"We therefore didn't have reasons to expect that the results of this politicized and opaque inquiry, that was from the beginning trying to lead to a 'wanted' result, would suddenly become objective and unbiased," added Zakharova. (PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/CDN

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