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Judge: Vladimir Putin Is 'Probably' a Murderer

Inquiry links Russian president to poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2016 4:35 AM CST
Updated Jan 21, 2016 7:12 AM CST
UK Judge: Putin Probably Approved Spy's Murder
In this Dec. 13, 2012, photo, Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, speaks to the media as she leaves at the end of a pre-inquest review.   (Matt Dunham)

(Newser) – A British judge declared a remarkable thing Thursday: Vladimir Putin is "probably" a murderer. The finding came after an inquiry into the high-profile death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was fatally poisoned in 2006. Judge Robert Owen said he's certain that two Russian agents laced Litvinenko's green tea with polonium-210 inside a London hotel—and that the mission "was probably approved" by Putin himself and the head of Russia's FSB spy agency (the successor to the KGB), reports the New York Times. Litvinenko accused Putin from his deathbed, but this appears to be the first time an official inquiry has linked the Russian president to the slaying, notes the AP. Russia, not surprisingly, isn't buying it. "We regret that a purely criminal case has been politicized and has darkened the general atmosphere of bilateral relations," says a rep for the Russian foreign ministry.

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Britain launched the inquiry at the urging of Litvinenko's widow, who welcomed the findings and called on the UK to issue sanctions on Russia and place a travel ban on Putin, reports the BBC. That seems unlikely, though Britain says it will now freeze the assets of Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the two men accused by British police of the killing. Moscow refuses to extradite them. The judge cited a number of possible motives, including Russia's belief that Litvinenko betrayed Moscow by working with British intelligence. He also cited the "highly personal attacks" by Litvinenko on Putin before the agent's death, including Litvinenko's clam that Putin was a pedophile, reports the Independent. "It hardly needs saying that the allegations made by Mr Litvinenko against President Putin in this article were of the most serious nature," wrote the judge. "Could they have had any connection with his death?" Read his full report here. (Read more Alexander Litvinenko stories.)

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