Russia was behind assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London, court rules

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia was responsible for the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the UK.

The former Russian agent and whistleblower suffered an agonising death after being poisoned in 2006.

Scientists uncovered he drank green tea laced with the rare and very potent radioactive isotope at London’s Millennium Hotel.

His murder was suspected to have been personally signed off by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Moscow has always denied any involvement.

Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of Putin, fled his homeland for Britain six years to the day before he was poisoned.

Pictures of him looking desperately ill on his deathbed shocked the world.

The incident was described as a nuclear attack on British soil and unleashed an international scandal as hundreds of others were also contaminated by the highly radioactive polonium that had been used in the killing.

A British inquiry concluded in 2016 that Putin probably approved a Russian intelligence operation to murder Litvinenko.

The inquiry also found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, carried out the killing as part of an operation most likely directed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

The European Court of Human Right’s (ECHR) ruling said: ‘Russia was responsible for assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko in the UK,’ the ruling said.

‘The Court found in particular that there was a strong prima facie case that, in poisoning Mr Litvinenko, Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun had been acting as agents of the Russian State.’

On his deathbed, Mr Litvinenko pointed the finger at Mr Putin – and named former colleagues Kovtun and Lugovoi as the men who poisoned him.

He died three weeks after drinking the poisoned tea.

In the 2016 inquiry, Mr Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence, criticism of the FSB and Mr Putin, and his association with other dissidents such as Boris Berezovsky were pointed to as likely motives.

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