The widow of Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian intelligence officer who was poisoned in London in 2006, says a recent British public inquiry shows that the Russian state was behind his slaying, and that his probes into alleged Kremlin ties to organized crime may have played an important role in the decision to kill him.
Speaking Monday at the Voice of America's Washington offices, Marina Litvinenko stressed the importance of the British investigation, which was led by Robert Owen, a retired British High Court judge, and ended in January.
Owen, she said, did an "incredible job."
"He not only investigated all the facts of Sasha's [Alexander Litvinenko's] death," she said, "he found a connection of this murder with the Russian state. The Russian state sponsored this crime."
Owen concluded there was a " strong probability" the two men whom the British authorities accused of poisoning Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel in November 2006, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, were acting "under the direction" of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia’s main security agency. Both men have denied involvement in Litvinenko's death.
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The retired judge also concluded that Litvinenko's slaying was "probably approved" by then-FSB head Nikolai Patrushev and President Vladimir Putin.
A veteran first of the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency, and then the FSB, Litvinenko began speaking out against high-level Russian governmental corruption. He also made a number of accusations against Putin. He later gained asylum in Britain with his family.
Marina Litvinenko said her husband's investigation of alleged ties between the Kremlin and the Russian mafia might have triggered the decision to kill him.
"Of course, what Sasha touched [on], and what became his last drop [the last straw] when he was killed, is difficult to say," she said. "But it's obviously his ability to investigate the connection of the Kremlin to organized crime. It was very important."
London has called for both Lugovoi, who was elected in 2007 to the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, and Kovtun, a businessman, to be extradited, but Moscow has refused. Russia's constitution prohibits the extradition of citizens to stand trial abroad.