Wednesday 21 February 2018

Murdered spy accused Putin of being paedophile - report

Marina Litvinenko, the wife of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, arrives with her son Anatoly at the Royal Courts of Justice, London Photo: PA
Marina Litvinenko, the wife of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, arrives with her son Anatoly at the Royal Courts of Justice, London Photo: PA
The last photo taken of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko Photo: PA
President Vladimir Putin ‘probably approved’ killing, report says Photo: AP

Victoria Ward

Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved a plan by Russia's FSB security service to kill former agent Alexander Litvinenko, a British judge has found.

In a sensational 300-page report, Judge Robert Owen said that he is certain Litvinenko was given tea laced with a fatal dose of polonium-210 at a London hotel in November 2006.

He said there is a "strong probability" that the FSB directed the killing, and the operation was "probably approved" by Mr Putin.

Mr Litvinenko, a former FSB agent, fled to Britain in 2000 and became a vocal critic of Russia's security service and of Putin, whom he accused of links to organised crime.

Judge Owen said Mr Litvinenko "was regarded as having betrayed the FSB" with his actions, and that "there were powerful motives for organisations and individuals within the Russian state to take action against Mr Litvinenko, including killing him."

Yesterday, Mr Litvinenko's widow Marina said outside the High Court in London she was "very pleased that the words my husband spoke on his deathbed when he accused Mr Putin have been proved by an English court." London's Metropolitan Police said the investigation into the "cold and calculated murder" remained ongoing.

One of the most controversial claims in the report was that there was a "personal dimension to the antagonism" between Mr Litvinenko and Mr Putin which "culminated in [an] allegation of paedophilia in 2006".

He claimed Mr Putin had destroyed videotapes which showed him "making sex with some underage boys".

Mr Litvinenko published an article on the Chechenpress website in July 2006, months before his death, claiming that when Mr Putin stopped and chatted to tourists in the Kremlin he spoke to a four or five-year-old boy called Nikita and then "kneeled, lifted the boy's T-shirt and kissed his stomach".

He went on: "The world public is shocked. Nobody can understand why the Russian president did such a strange thing as kissing the stomach of an unfamiliar small boy.

"The explanation may be found if we look carefully at the so-called 'blank spots' in Putin's biography."

He said that after graduating from the KGB college he was not accepted into the foreign intelligence service because "shortly before his graduation, his bosses learned that Putin was a pedophile [sic]."

Instead of making a fuss, officials at the Andropov Institute, the KGB college, simply decided to avoid sending him abroad.

"Many years later, when Putin became the FSB director and was preparing for the presidency, he began to seek and destroy any compromising materials collected against him by the secret services over earlier years...among other things, Putin found videotapes in the FSB Internal Security directorate, which showed him making sex with some underage boys."

Judge Owen said the personal attacks on Putin were among the "powerful motives" for the murder.

Last night, Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador in the UK, said Russia would not accept any decisions reached in secret and based on evidence not tested in open court. The length of time taken to come to these conclusions led them to believe it was "a whitewash of British security services' incompetence", he said.

Mr Yakovenko said these events "can't help but harm our bilateral relations".

According to the BBC, the conclusions of this inquiry are stronger than many expected in pointing the finger at Mr Putin personally. The evidence behind that seems to have come from secret intelligence heard in closed session.

Saying that Mr Litvinenko was killed because he was an enemy of the Russian state will raise pressure on the British government to take real action. That may pose difficulties given the importance of Russia's role in the Middle East but, without action, people may ask if the Russians have been allowed to get away with what has been described as an act of terrorism on the streets of London.

Mr Litvinenko fled to the UK in 2000, claiming persecution. He was granted asylum and gained British citizenship several years later. In the years before his death, he worked as a writer and journalist, becoming a strong critic of the Kremlin. It is believed he also worked as a consultant for MI6, specialising in Russian organised crime.

The inquiry heard from 62 witnesses in six months of hearings and was shown secret intelligence evidence about Mr Litvinenko and his links with British intelligence agencies.

In Moscow Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, hinted that the British secret services may have gone to extraordinary means to secure what she called their "desired result".

"Just before the authorities launched this inquiry in 2014, which just so happened to coincide with the deterioration of the situation in eastern Ukraine, two key witnesses died," she said. She was referring to Boris Berezovsky, an exiled Russian oligarch and critic of Putin who knew Mr Litvinenko, and David West, the owner of a restaurant where the two men frequently met.

Ms Zakharova appeared to be hinting at an alternative theory in which Mr Berezovsky was the real killer, or that Mr Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning by mistake while running a polonium-smuggling operation with the oligarch. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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