Investigation: Vladimir Putin ‘Ordered Killing’ of Alexander Litvinenko

A lawyer for Alexander Litvinenko's family said Vladimir Putin was a "tinpot despot"
A lawyer for Alexander Litvinenko’s family said Vladimir Putin was a “tinpot despot”

Russian President Vladimir Putin “personally ordered” the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, the inquiry into the former spy’s death has heard.

Ben Emmerson QC, representing Mr Litvinenko’s family, said Russian state responsibility for the killing had been proven “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Mr Putin’s “personal cabal” are “willing to murder those who stand in their way”, Mr Emmerson added.

But the Kremlin told the BBC it did not trust the inquiry.

‘Tinpot despot’

Dissident Mr Litvinenko, 43, drank tea containing a fatal dose of radioactive polonium during a meeting with suspects Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi in 2006.

The Kremlin wanted Mr Litvinenko dead and provided the poison used to kill him, Mr Emmerson alleged.

Scientific evidence proves Mr Kovtun and Mr Lugovoi killed the former spy, he added.

Mr Emmerson told the inquiry Mr Putin was an “increasingly isolated tinpot despot” and a “morally deranged authoritarian”.

He said the Russian president and his allies are “directly implicated in organised crime”.

“If the Russian state is responsible, Vladimir Putin is responsible,” Mr Emmerson said. “Not on some analogical version of vicarious liability but because he personally ordered the liquidation of an enemy who was bent on exposing him and his cronies.”

The QC said Mr Kovtun had failed to appear before the inquiry because he would be unable to explain the evidence against him.

Mr Kovtun said in March that he wanted to testify, but failed to appear by videolink.

The Kremlin said the accusations raised at the inquiry had been heard before.

A spokesman said: “Such statements were made without any results from the investigation, and after there were results of some sort of investigation.

“It seems they had to add something, so that their words could seem convincing.”

He said officials in Russia “don’t want to have anything to do” with British investigations into the death.


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