The Russian government may have ordered the assassination of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko over accusations he made that Vladimir Putin was a pedophile, a British judge said in a report Thursday.
Sir Robert Owen, a retired High Court judge, released a scathing report into the death of Litvinenko that concluded his murder was “probably” ordered by Putin himself. The Russian government is denying any involvement.
Owen, who led a public inquiry into the 2006 killing of the former spy, said he was certain Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun had given Litvinenko tea containing a fatal dose of polonium-210 during a meeting at a London hotel.
The report looked at Litvinenko’s “highly personal attacks” against the Russian president that reached a “climax” with a July 2006 article on the Chechenpress website, four months before he was poisoned.
Published in the report as evidence, the article recounted a meeting between Putin and a boy “aged four or five” in a square near the Kremlin.
“Putin kneeled, lifted the boy’s T-shirt and kissed his stomach,” Litvinenko wrote. “Nobody can understand why the Russian president did such a strange thing as kissing the stomach of an unfamiliar small boy.”
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He then alleged Putin used his position as head of the FSB, Russian’s intelligence service, to destroy videos of him having sex with underage boys.
“It hardly needs saying that the allegations made by Mr. Litvinenko against President Putin in this article were of the most serious nature. Could they have had any connection with his death?”, Owen wrote.
“There was undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism between Mr. Litvinenko on the one hand and President Putin on the other,” he continued. “Mr. Litvinenko made repeated highly personal attacks on President Putin culminating in the allegation of pedophillia in July 2006.”
Litvinenko fled to Britain in 2000 and became a vocal critic of Russia’s security service, even accusing Putin with being linked to organized crime. He had accused Putin on his deathbed of ordering his killing, but Thursday’s report is the first official statement linking the Russian president to the crime.
Moscow has strongly denied any involvement in the murder, and accused Britain on Thursday of conducting a politically motivated inquiry.
“There was one goal from the beginning: slander Russia and slander its officials,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zhakarova told reporters. She said the inquiry was neither public nor transparent, comparing it to a “shadow puppet theatre.”
Marina Litvinenko, the former agent’s widow, said Thursday during a press conference 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.”
She called UK Prime Minister David Cameron to impose economic sanctions against Russia.
“It’s unthinkable that the prime minister would do nothing in the face of the damning findings,” Marina said.
*With files from The Associated Press