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Russia Fatally Poisoned A Prominent Defector In London, A Court Concludes

21September 2021

Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy and author of the book “Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within,” is shown here in 2002, four years before he was poisoned.

Alistair Fuller/AP

Alistair Fuller/AP

The European Court of Human Rights has found the Kremlin responsible for the 2006 assassination by radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence agent who defected to the West.

Litvinenko died in London weeks after drinking tea that was later found to have been laced with the deadly radioactive compound polonium-210.

In its ruling, the ECHR said it “cannot but conclude” that two Russian intelligence agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, had killed Litvinenko “acting as agents of the respondent State [Russia].”

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death, while Lugovoi and Kovtun have suggested that the defector may have poisoned himself. However, critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB officer, say Litvinenko’s death is part of a deliberate policy to “liquidate” defectors.

On his deathbed, Litvinenko himself accused Putin of ordering his assassination.

The European court’s decision is in line with the findings of a 2016 British inquiry into Litvinenko’s death. It concluded that the FSB, the successor to the KGB, carried out the operation to kill him, which was “probably approved by Mr. [Nikolai] Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin.”

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