Back in 2006, an ex-spy named Alexander Litvinenko lay in a London hospital, pale and in excruciating pain. Before he died at age 44, he told local police that he was a spy and declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin had him killed.
A decade later, a British judge ruled that Litvinenko’s death bed declaration was likely true, and that Putin “probably” ordered or approved his assassination. The murder’s impetus may have been Alexander’s public allegations that the leader was a pedophile, which was apparently an open secret, The Daily Beast reported.
According to the inquiry’s conclusion, released Thursday, Alexander’s assassination was likely ordered by Russia’s FSB security agency, approved by the agency’s leader and “probably approved” by Putin himself, NBC News added.
The method of murder sounds like something straight out of a spy novel. Alexander Litvinenko was felled by green tea laced with radioactive polonium-210, which was slipped into his drink at a London hotel by two former Russian officials, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, according to CNN.
The six-month inquiry — which included the closed-door testimony of 62 witnesses — concluded that the former KGB and FSB employee Lugovoi and former army officer Kovtun “were acting on behalf of others, probably the Russian spy service, the FSB.” They both deny involvement in Alexander’s death. However, both of their assets have been frozen as a result of the inquiry.
The “cold and calculated” assassination of Litvinenko was perpetrated with “no regard for the safety of the public,” London’s Metropolitan Police said Thursday. The assassins reportedly left a radioactive trial across London hotels, restaurants, and other sites. Three British Airways planes had also been contaminated by an unnamed radioactive substance.
Of course, polonium-210 is both naturally occurring and produced by more than one country. However, according to scientists, Alexander’s body had such high concentrations of the substance that it was likely produced in a nuclear reactor or particle accelerator. These types of facilities are controlled by governments.
Litvinenko’s body was reportedly so dangerous that the medics who performed his autopsy wore protective clothing, and he was buried in a lead-lined casket.
Ten years after her husband’s death, Alexander’s widow, Marina, felt vindicated by the inquiry’s findings.
“I am of course very pleased that the words my husband spoke on his death bed when he accused Mr. Putin of his murder have been proved true. If you commit this crime, in the end you will face justice.”
The investigation also unearthed a possible motivation for Putin to “probably” okay Litvinenko’s murder.
Alexander had been a security agent in Russia, but turned whistleblower and came to Britain in 2000, when he began to work for MI6. Over the years, Litvinenko criticized both the Kremlin and the FSB, and investigated corruption among Russian officials for MI6, accused the government of perpetrating apartment explosions that were blamed on Chechen rebels, but more critically, lodged public accusations against Putin for being a pedophile.
Alexander claimed that Vladimir used his position when he was with intelligence to “seek and destroy” any evidence of his depravity, including videos purporting to show him having sex with young boys — this allegation was the “climax” of a feud between the two men, ending in Litvinenko’s death.
Naturally, the Russian government has dismissed the inquiry. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it an attempt to “smear Russia,” and compared the creativity of the claims to an Agatha Christie novel.
Meanwhile, in light of the investigation’s conclusion — the first to link Putin to the death of one of the Kremlin’s enemies — Marina Litvinenko wants both Russian intelligence operatives expelled from the U.K. and Putin and others to be banned.
[Photo by Alistair Fuller/AP]