Marina Litvinenko Widow Accuses Vladimir Putin of Ordering Husband Killing

The family of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko have made a final plea to the judge presiding over the inquiry into his death to formally implicate Vladimir Putin in his murder.

On the last day of the exhaustive public inquiry, Ben Emmerson QC, representing Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, and son Anatoly, said the evidence heard proves Putin personally ordered the murder of the Russian dissident on the streets of London.

Emmerson struck out at the Russian president, labelling him a “tinpot despot” and lamenting his “cringing hard-man photo opportunities”, and urged the inquiry to identify him as being behind Litvinenko’s death.

Litvinenko, a former FSB and KGB spy who worked for British secret service MI6 during his time in the UK, died aged 43 at University College hospital nearly three weeks after drinking tea laced with polonium-210 on 1 November 2006 at the Millennium hotel in Grosvenor Square, London.

He had been in the company of Russian contacts Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the prime suspects in the murder, who have evaded arrest and trial in the UK.

The inquiry was presented with detailed scientific evidence of what was dubbed the polonium trail – a long list of locations and items contaminated with the radioactive substance and linked to the movements of Lugovoi and Kovtun on three visits to London.

On Thursday, lawyers for Scotland Yard contended that Lugovoi and Kovtun were a couple of ignorant and common murderers – and the Russian state was behind the death of Litvinenko, a dissident who campaigned relentlessly against Russian state corruption and organised crime.

The police force, however, was more cautious about implicating Putin directly, arguing Russian state liability did not necessarily mean the president was accountable.

But in his closing speech, Emmerson said there was enough evidence to conclude Putin was responsible for the murder.

“When the evidence is viewed in the round, as it must be, it establishes Russian state responsibility for Alexander Litvinenko’s murder beyond reasonable doubt,” he said. “And if the Russian state is responsible, Vladimir Putin is responsible.

“Not on some analogical version of vicarious liability but because he personally ordered the liquidation of an enemy who was bent on exposing him and his cronies.

“An operation as significant as killing a high-profile dissident in London, who had the protection of the British government and who was a British citizen, using a highly dangerous radioactive isotope, would require the personal authorisation of President Putin.”

Emmerson rehearsed some of the key reasonsto put Putin under suspicion, including the polonium’s origins in Russia, Lugovoi’s links to the FSB and similarities with several other political assassinations in Russia.

He told the inquiry Putin was motivated by revenge and the need to prevent further damning disclosures about the Kremlin – Litvinenko had already exposed links between Putin and organised crime in two books.

Shortly before his death, Litvinenko had been working on a report for a private firm Titon International, which contained “staggering” allegations about Putin’s links to organised crime, said Emmerson. Litvinenko was also involved with an undercover Spanish police and intelligence investigation into Russian organised crime in that country, including the links between Putin and an organised crime group known as the Tambov-Malyshev gang.

“Vladimir Putin stands accused of this murder not on the basis of inference, vicarious liabilities or vagrancy but on solid and direct evidence – the best evidence that is ever likely to be available in relation to a secret and corrupt criminal enterprise in the Kremlin,” he said.

Addressing the inquiry chairman, Sir Robert Owen, he continued: “First, you can be sure on the criminal standard that Lugovoi and Kovtun murdered Mr Litvinenko. Secondly, that you can be sure that they were sent by officials within the Russian state to do this. Thirdly, that cannot conceivably have happened without Vladimir Putin’s authority.”

Emmerson hit out at Putin’s decision in March to award Lugovoi a medal for services to Russia. Since Litvinenko’s death, the suspect has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Russian politics. “It was a crass and clumsy gesture from an increasingly isolated tinpot despot – a morally deranged authoritarian who was at that very moment clinging desperately on to political power in the face of international sanctions and a rising chorus of international condemnation,” he said.

“After years of negotiation and appeasement, the world has lost patience now with Mr Putin’s judo politics and his cringing, hard man photo opportunities. He is increasingly seen as a dangerous international menace: corrupt, vindictive and lethal – badly advised, lacking in political judgment, a threat to international peace and security, a liability to his own people and to Russia itself.”

Outside court, Marina Litvinenko, who knew her husband as Sasha, said there was little doubt in her mind that the order for his murder came from the Kremlin. “Any reasonable person who looks at the evidence presented at the inquiry will see that my husband was killed by agents of the Russian state in the first ever act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of London,” she said. ”This could not have happened without the knowledge and consent of Mr Putin.”

Marina said her husband fought to expose corruption in the FSB and in the “highest echelons of power in Russia”. “His actions were perceived as treachery and he paid the ultimate price for them,” she said. “To us, he was a loving husband and father, who was immensely proud to be British and happy to be living in the UK.”

During the inquiry, which opened in January, details have emerged of Litvinenko’s life and the murky world in which he operated, from meetings in Waterstones with his MI6 contact “Martin” to the meticulous reports on Russian officials he supplied to private security firms in London.

The inquiry has also revealed the dangers and risks Litvinenko faced. His death was slow. Over three weeks, his hair fell out, his organs shut down, he felt extraordinary pain throughout his body. Owen, who has also heard secret evidence, most likely on Litvinenko’s work with MI6, is expected to report the findings of the inquiry before the end of the year.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply