Before he died, Litvinenko accused Putin of ordering his killing, but Owen’s report is the first public official statement linking the Russian president to the crime, and it sent a chilling jolt through U.K.-Russia relations.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the evidence in the report of “state-sponsored” killing was “absolutely appalling.” Britain summoned the Russian ambassador for a dressing-down and imposed an asset freeze on the two main suspects: Andrei Lugovoi, now a Russian lawmaker, and Dmitry Kovtun.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the involvement of the Russian state was “a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilized behavior.”
Moscow has always strongly denied being involved in Litvinenko’s death and accused Britain of conducting a secretive and politically motivated inquiry.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the “quasi-investigation” would “further poison the atmosphere of our bilateral relations.”
He said the report “cannot be accepted by us as a verdict.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zhakarova said the British inquiry was neither public nor transparent, saying it had turned into a “shadow puppet theater.”
“There was one goal from the beginning: slander Russia and slander its officials,” she told reporters in Moscow.
Litvinenko fled to Britain in 2000 and became a critic of Russia’s security services and of Putin, whom he accused of links to organized crime and other alleged transgressions including pedophilia, Owen said in the report.
He was a very vocal annoyance, feeding inside information about Russia’s secrets to Western intelligence services, and — the judge said — was widely regarded within the FSB as a traitor.
“There were powerful motives for organizations and individuals within the Russian state to take action against Mr. Litvinenko, including killing him,” Owen wrote in the 326-page report.
The judge said the case for Russian state involvement was circumstantial but strong.
Owen said Litvinenko had “personally targeted President Putin himself with highly personal public criticism,” allied himself with Putin’s opponents and was believed to be working for British intelligence.