A BRITISH judge thinks that Russian president Vladimir Putin may have ordered the killing of FSB turned MI6 agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Judge Robert Owen’s 300 page report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, published last week, alleges that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “probably” ordered his killing.
Yet evidence is now emerging that our own British secret service MI5 are the more likely murderers of the former double agent.
Litvinenko, a former agent of Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, defected to Britain in 2000 and worked for MI6.
In November 2006, the spy died of acute radiation syndrome in a London hospital.
Ever since, his death has been used as political football in UK-Russia diplomacy.
So, after a judicial inquiry held during a period of unprecedented anti-Russian feeling in the UK, finally we have Judge Owen’s verdict.
Interestingly, much of the evidence presented to him was kept private for “security reasons.”
Judge Owen stated: “There can be no doubt that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun (two former KGB agents) in the Pine Bar of London’s luxury Millennium Hotel on 1 November, 2006.”
“I have further concluded that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin,” he added.
Judge Owen has no actual evidence that Putin ordered Litvinenko’s murder. He is simply offering his own personal opinion.
That didn’t stop our right wing press launching into hysterical overdrive when the judgement was announced.
The Daily Mail, not known for restraint, decided there was a “new cold war.”
“Images reveal how Russian spy was poisoned with polonium in London hotel – as bombshell report reveals Putin DID order his assassination,” the Mail claimed.
The paper centred its coverage on Litvinenko’s claims that Putin was a “paedophile.”
The Sun, also couldn’t grasp the meaning of “probably.”
Their headline screamed, “Alexander Litvinenko was murdered because he accused Putin of being a paedo”.
Russia’s government responded angrily to the accusations.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marina Zakharova said: “It is no surprise that the launch of a public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death coincided with the flaring of tensions in Ukraine. The UK authorities created a dangerous precedent where they used their domestic legal system in a politically laden investigation.”
It is an interesting political paradox.
While our government and judiciary only took 10 years to complete their Litvinenko probe, it’s been 26 years since our own agents “probably” murdered Irish civil rights lawyer, Pat Finucane.
It is suspected that former PM Margaret Thatcher “probably” ordered the killing.
Now, why does David Cameron believe that Marina Litvinenko, a Russian, has more right to an investigation into her husband’s murder than UK citizen Geraldine Finucane?
The hypocrisy is shameful.
We pride ourselves on our justice system.
But we have many examples that fairness is selective and can be influenced by the political issues of the day. The Hillsborough Disaster, Cyril Smith and Greville Janner’s paedophile activities, The Lockerbie Disaster, The Guildford Four and The Birmingham Six all bear testament to that.
So let’s look at the Litvinenko case from a less jaundiced position
Litvinenko defected from Russia to Britain after he was sacked from the Russian FSB for unprofessional misconduct.
He became a British citizen and worked for extensively for MI6.
He was a valuable asset to the British owing to the very public allegations he made and they were able to broadcast for smearing Putin and other Russian government officials with corruption claims.
As a former “Kremlin spy”, the propaganda value that our government and its media allies exploited through Litvinenko was considerable.
But then came an even more valuable propaganda opportunity for the British – Litvinenko’s death.
Who is to say that his British handlers did not bump off the Russian “former spy” with their own supply of radioactive polonium?
And given Litvinenko’s personal umbrage with the Russian government for being sacked from the FSB, he could be relied on by the British to give a plausible-sounding death bed statement imputing Putin for his demise.
Litvinenko’s own father Walter Litvinenko now admits he pursued a smear campaign against the Russian government out of grief, but changed his mind after Aleksandr’s widow revealed his son had been working for British intelligence.
“If I knew back then that my son worked for the MI6, I would not speculate about his death. It would be none of my business. Although I am not 100 per cent sure he did work for them,” he said this week.
He added that if it was true and Aleksandr, once a security officer with the Russian special service FSB, had defected to British intelligence, the Russians may have had a right to kill him as a traitor.
“He might as well have been killed by Russian secret services. They had a right to do it because traitors are to be killed,” he said.
He called his son a victim of a grand spy game.
But he doubts that Andrey Lugovoy, who British police named their chief suspect, had a hand in his death or acted as a government agent.
“The FSB wouldn’t send some dumbhead to spill polonium on himself, to leave traces all over my son. It appears that someone left traces of polonium on Lugovoy intentionally. Polonium traces were found at the stadium, on the road and even on a plane. It’s strange to think that Lugovoy would be such an idiot,” he said.
He says he regrets his participation in the smear campaign against Russia in general and Putin in particular.
Andrey Lugovoy, the businessman Scotland Yard accuses of killing the double agent, also spoke about Litvinenko’s father’s change of heart.
“Litvinenko’s father’s comments reflect what I’ve been saying for more than five years – that Britain’s accusations don’t stand up.”
Lugovoy reiterated sentiments that the British secret services had embarked on a slander campaign in an attempt to “discredit Russia.”
Further, he says Litvinenko’s father’s statements have dealt a significant blow to the UK intelligence community, showing how “they have embarrassed themselves.”
He also drew a connection between the death of Litvinenko and the British Intelligence Services.
“Litvinenko died in November 2006. In March-April, I was openly offered cooperation by MI6 and in order to motivate me somehow, I was denied a visa. That was in May 2006. And after I called Litvinenko – I’ve said this multiple times – I was granted a visa all of a sudden. I have always connected these two events,” Lugovoy recalled.
He stressed that prior to May 2006, he had always received British visas without any problems. “They always gave me visas, and did it with great pleasure before May 2006, when I was denied a visa after MI6 tried recruiting me.”
Litvinenko’s younger brother also believes that MI5 probably committed the murder.
Maxim Litvinenko rejects the findings of Judge Owen’s inquiry into his brother’s death, saying that to blame the Kremlin is ‘ridiculous.’
He says the report was an obvious attempt to ‘put pressure on Russia’ and that British Secret Services had more reason to want Litvinenko dead than Putin.
Maxim said: “I don’t believe for a second that the Russian authorities were involved.
“The sentence is a set-up to provide more bad publicity against the Russian government.
“The Russians had no reason to want Alexander dead,” he added.
‘My brother was not a Russian spy, he was more like a policeman.
“He was in the FSB but he worked against organised crime, murders, arms trafficking, stuff like that.
“He did not know any state secrets or go on any special missions. It is the Western media that have called him a spy.”
His relations with Russia were so stable that Alexander planned to return, his brother claimed, because he didn’t have enough work in London.
“He had already started to get in touch with old friends and would have gone back in due course,” he added.
“My father and I are sure that the Russian authorities are not involved. It’s all a set-up to put pressure on the Russian government.”
He claimed that British authorities had not collaborated with Russian investigators on his brother’s case and cast doubt on whether polonium was really the murder weapon saying he believes it could have been planted to frame the Russians.
“I believe he could have been killed by another poison maybe thallium, which killed him slowly and the polonium was planted afterwards,” he claimed.
“We have always asked for his body to be exhumed so that we can verify the presence of polonium in the body but we have been ignored.
“Now after 10 years any trace would have disappeared anyway so we will never know.”
He also claimed that several other deaths, including the suicide of Boris Berezovsky, the dissident who had initially supported Litvinenko financially, and the murder of the owner of a nightclub where traces of polonium were found, could be linked to his brother’s death.
Judge Owen’s inquiry report is also based on forged evidence, said Kovtun, one of the two Russians suspected of poisoning Litvinenko.
“There had been no doubts Judge Robert Owen would arrive at such conclusions. These rely on forged evidence and the open hearings exposed that. There were no doubts that when the proceedings continue behind closed doors, forged evidence will be used again,” he said.
Kovtun described the pieces of evidence presented to the inquiry as “insane and easily refutable.”
“The witness was giving conflicting testimonies all the time. The case is extremely politicized,” he said.
“Yet I’d hoped for the common sense and courage of Judge Owen. May this decision remain on his conscience.”