Russia 'responsible for assassinating' Muswell Hill resident Litvinenko

Poisoned former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in hospital before his death in 2006

Poisoned former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in hospital before his death in 2006 - Credit: Handout

A court has ruled that Russia was responsible for the assassination of Muswell Hill resident Alexander Litvinenko.

Mr Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, died after being poisoned with a rare radioactive substance in London in 2006.

A statement by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on its ruling on Tuesday reads: “Russia was responsible for assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko in the UK.”

Russia has always denied any involvement but the case was brought by his widow Marina Litvinenko.

Family handout file photo dated 14/10/94 of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko (right) with his

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko (right) with wife Marina on their wedding day in Moscow. - Credit: PA/family handout

Mr Litvinenko died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

A public inquiry concluded in 2016 that the killing of Mr Litvinenko – an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin – had “probably” been carried out with the approval of the Russian president.

It found two Russian men – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun – deliberately poisoned Mr Litvinenko.

It said the two men probably acted under the direction of the Russian security service the FSB – for which Mr Litvinenko used to work, as well as the KGB.

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Possible motives included Mr Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence agencies after fleeing Russia, his criticism of the FSB, and his association with other Russian dissidents, while it said there was also a “personal dimension” to the antagonism between him and Mr Putin.

According to the statement on the European court’s ruling: “The Court found in particular that there was a strong prima facie case that, in poisoning Mr Litvinenko, Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun had been acting as agents of the Russian State. It noted that the Government had failed to provide any other satisfactory and convincing explanation of the events or counter the findings of the UK inquiry.”

State involvement is the “only remaining plausible explanation”, the findings said.

“The Court found it established, beyond reasonable doubt, that the assassination had been carried out by Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun. The planned and complex operation involving the procurement of a rare deadly poison, the travel arrangements for the pair, and repeated and sustained attempts to administer the poison indicated that Mr Litvinenko had been the target of the operation,” the statement said.

Russia has been ordered to pay Mrs Litvinenko 100,000 euro (£85,600) in damages and 22,500 euro (£19,300) in cost and expenses.

Mrs Litvinenko said she hopes to bring the people responsible for her husband’s death to justice in the UK.

Additional reporting by Flora Thompson, PA home affairs correspondent.