As It Happens

Alexander Litvinenko's widow says Russia can no longer deny it killed her husband

The British judge who led the inquiry into the Kremlin critic's death says that Russian spies poisoned dissident Alexander Litvinenko and that President Vladimir Putin "probably approved" the hit.
Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former Russian spy and Kremlin critic Alexander, says UK Judge Robert Owen's inquiry report into her husband's killing validates what she's said all along - that Litvinenko was poisoned at the behest of the Kremlin. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Marina Litvinenko finally has validation.

For almost a decade, the widow of dissident Alexander Litvinenko has been saying that Russia's spy service assassinated her husband, poisoning his tea at a London hotel.

On Thursday, the British judge who led a public inquiry into the death of the former Russian spy and Kremlin critic issued his report. Judge Robert Owen agreed that two Russian men put a fatal dose of polonium-210 in Mr. Litvinenko's drink. And he implicated Russian President Vladimir Putin in the scheme.

Russian President Vladimir Putin leads a meeting of the presidential education council in the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. (Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Judge Owen said that there is a "strong probability" the FSB, the KGB's successor, directed the plan — and that the operation was "probably approved" by Putin.

"It was a very important day for all of us," Litvinenko tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "All of what we said before, we proved. And not simply by words. We proved this in an English court."

She says she hopes the report will send a strong message to the Russian people — that the truth can come to light in a democratic country.

Marina Litvinenko, (R) widow of murdered ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, reacts with her son Anatoly (L) during a news conference in London on January 21, 2016. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

She is also pleased that her son, Anatoly, who was 12 when Alexander died, heard a British court validate what his father said on his deathbed about his assassins. Her son was by her side today and during the court proceedings.

"[Anatoly] is now 21 and he was absolutely incredible in all this period and he should know about his father," she says. "It makes me feel very proud of him and I'm absolutely sure his father . . . would be proud of Anatoly right now."

Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the London murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko, speaks during an interview at a radio station Echo of Moscow in Moscow, March 13, 2009. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as biased. "There was one goal from the beginning: slander Russia," ministry spokesperson Maria Zhakarova said at a news conference.

Dmitry Babich, who works for Russia's state broadcaster, tells As It Happens host Carol Off that the report was "baloney."

Babich argues that the report, which blames Alexander Litvinenko's death on Russian spies likely directed by the Kremlin, is biased and should not be believed.

Litvinenko says she is not surprised that Judge Owen stopped short of saying absolutely that Putin gave the command to kill her husband, who accused the Russian president of having ties to organized crime.

"It's very lawyerly language and, if you don't have certain evidence . . .you can't say this in a different way."

Businessman Dmitry Kovtun after he attended a news conference in Moscow, April 8, 2015. He is one of two Russians accused of poisoning former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko with a radioactive isotope in London in 2006. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

The two people accused of carrying out the assassination are Andrei Lugovoi, who is now a member of the Russian parliament, and businessman Dmitry Kovtun. Russia has refused to extradite the men.

"They deny everything because they live a double-standard life," says Litvinenko.


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