LONDON — Almost a decade after former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko lay dying in a London hospital bed, a British judge has concluded who poisoned him: two Russian men, acting at the behest of Russia’s security services, probably with approval from President Vladimir Putin.
That finding prompted sharp exchanges Thursday between London and Moscow, and a diplomatic dilemma for both countries. With Russia and the West inching closer together after years of strain, neither side wants a new feud — even over a state-sanctioned murder on British soil.
Judge Robert Owen, who led the public inquiry into the killing, said he was certain that two Russians with links to the security services had given Litvinenko green tea containing a fatal dose of radioactive polonium-210 during a meeting at a London hotel.
He said there was a “strong probability” that Russia’s FSB, the successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB spy agency, directed the killing and that the operation was “probably approved” by Putin, then as now the president of Russia.
Owen wrote in his report, “There was undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism between Mr. Litvinenko on the one hand and President Putin on the other. Mr. Litvinenko made repeated highly personal attacks on President Putin culminating in the allegation of paedophillia in July 2006.”
Four months before his death, Litvinenko published an article on the Chechenpress website after Putin was captured on film lifting the shirt of a young boy outside the Kremlin and kissing his stomach.
Litvinenko wrote that “before his graduation, his bosses learned that Putin was a pedophile.”
He also claimed that, shortly after he was named director of the FSB, “Putin found videotapes in the FSB Internal Security directorate, which showed him making sex with some underage boys.”