- European Court declares Lugovoy and Kovtun committed 2006 murder
- Court endorses UK inquiry findings
- Moscow’s “No Serious Attempt” to Refute British Conclusions
- Men and Russia have always denied any involvement
- Court awards 100,000 euros in damages to Litvinenko’s widow
LONDON, Sept.21 (Reuters) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Russia was responsible for the assassination of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died a gruesome death in 2006 after killing been poisoned in London by a rare radioactive substance.
Litvinenko, a defector turned outspoken critic of the Kremlin, died three weeks after drinking green tea mixed with polonium-210 in a lavish hotel in London.
Britain has long blamed the attack on Moscow, and the European Court in Strasbourg, France, agreed on Tuesday, saying in a statement that “Mr. Litvinenko’s assassination was attributable to Russia”, prompting a quick reprimand from the Kremlin.
The image of Litvinenko, 43, lying on his bed at University College Hospital in London, yellow, gaunt and with fallen hair, has been featured in British and Western newspapers.
From his deathbed, Litvinenko told detectives he believed President Vladimir Putin – himself a former KGB spy – directly ordered his assassination, a charge denied by the Kremlin.
The use of a rare radioactive isotope on the streets of London, apparently to settle scores, plunged Anglo-Russian relations and Western distrust of the Kremlin to what was then a post-Cold War low.
A British investigation concluded in 2016 that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and fellow Russian Dmitry Kovtun committed the murder in an operation presumably led by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the KGB of the Soviet era.
Endorsing this view, the ECHR declared that it had found “beyond a reasonable doubt that the assassination was committed by Mr. Lugovoy and Mr. Kovtun”.
“The planned and complex operation involving the purchase of a rare deadly poison, the travel arrangements for the couple and the repeated and sustained attempts to administer the poison indicated that Mr. Litvinenko had been the target of the operation. . “
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the accusation.
“The ECHR has little authority or the technological capacity to possess information on the matter,” he said. “There is still no result from this investigation and making such claims is unfounded to say the least.”
Lugovoy and Kovtun have always denied any involvement. On Tuesday, Lugovoy said the ECHR decision was politically motivated.
“I think this is extremely silly and damaging to the reputation of the European Court of Human Rights,” Lugovoy, member of the Russian parliament, told Reuters.
In a separate development on Tuesday, British police said a third Russian had been indicted in absentia for the Novichok murder attempt in 2018 against former double agent Sergei Skripal, saying they could also now confirm that the three suspects were military intelligence officers. Read more
Russia has also rejected any involvement in the affair, which has led to the tacit expulsion of dozens of diplomats.
In the 2006 incident, polonium contamination was found in the teapot and bar of the hotel where Litvinenko was located, and traces of the highly radioactive substance were left across London – in offices, hotels, airplanes and the Emirates Stadium from Arsenal football club.
But with the main suspects out of reach in Russia, Britain has been unable to press charges.
Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, took the case to the ECHR, arguing that her husband had been killed “at the direction or with the consent or connivance of the Russian authorities and that the Russian authorities had not carried out any action. effective national investigation into the murder ”.
NOT “ROGUE OPERATION”
Finding the Russian state responsible for Litvinenko’s death, the ECHR said Moscow would have had the information to prove it if the men carried out a “rogue operation”.
“However, the government has made no serious attempt to provide such information or to counter the findings of the British authorities,” he said.
A Russian judge sitting at the ECHR college, Dmitry Dedov, disagreed with his six colleagues on the main finding of the court.
“I have found numerous gaps in the analysis of the UK investigation and the Court which raise reasonable doubts as to the suspects’ involvement in the poisoning and whether they were acting as agents of the State, ”he said.
The ECHR ordered Russia to pay Marina Litvinenko 100,000 euros (117,000 dollars) in damages and 22,500 euros in costs.
The judge who oversaw the British investigation said there were several reasons the Russian state wanted to kill Litvinenko, who was granted British citizenship a month before his death on November 23, 2006.
The ex-spy was believed to have betrayed the FSB by accusing him of carrying out bombings of apartment buildings in Russia in 1999 which left more than 200 dead, which the Kremlin blamed on them. Chechen rebels.
He was also close to other prominent Russian dissidents and had accused the Putin administration of collusion with organized crime. The judge said the FSB also had information that it had started working for the British foreign intelligence agency, MI6.
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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden in London, and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Editing by Kate Holton, Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones
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