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Court Pins Ex-Spy's Fatal Poisoning on Russia

Former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was killed in London in 2006
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2021 9:20 AM CDT
Court Pins Ex-Spy's Fatal Poisoning on Russia
In this 2016 file photo, Marina Litvinenko, widow of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, reads a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

(Newser) – The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday blamed Russia for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with a radioactive material. A former agent for the KGB and the successor agency FSB, Litvinenko defected from Russia in 2000 and fled to London, per the AP. While in Britain, Litvinenko became involved in exposing corruption and links to organized crime in the Russian intelligence service. He fell violently ill on Nov. 1, 2006, after drinking tea with two Russian men at a London hotel, and spent three weeks in the hospital before he died. His tea was found to have been laced with radioactive polonium-210.

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A British inquiry concluded in early 2016 that Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun had killed Litvinenko, and that President Vladimir Putin had “probably approved” the operation. Litvinenko's widow, Marina, took the case to the Strasbourg-based court. The European court, which is not a body of the European Union, backed the British conclusion in its verdict on Tuesday but rejected Marina Litvinenko's claim for “punitive” damages.

"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,” it said. Both Lugovoi and Kovtun deny any involvement in the killing. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov brushed aside the European court's verdict. “We’re not ready to take such rulings on board,” he told reporters. (Read more Alexander Litvinenko stories.)

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