Russian accused of murder of Alexander Litvinenko reportedly dies of Covid-19

One of the men accused of murdering former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London has died in Moscow from Covid-19, it has been widely reported.

Dmitri Kovtun was one of two men who poisoned Mr Litvinenko’s tea with a rare radioactive substance, according to a 2006 British investigation.

In reports attributed to Russia’s Tass news agency, Kovtun is said to have contracted the coronavirus before dying in a Moscow hospital.

Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi were accused of being behind the murder of Litvinenko 16 years ago at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.

Russia Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘probably’ approved of Alexander Litvinenko’s assassination (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

According to reports, Tass quoted Mr Lugovoi, now a member of the Russian parliament, as saying he was mourning the death of a “close and faithful friend”.

A British public inquiry in 2016 concluded that the murder of the outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, who died after drinking tea containing radioactive polonium-210, was “probably” carried out with the consent of the Russian president.

Led by former Supreme Court Justice Sir Robert Owen, the investigation found that the two Russian men – Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun – had deliberately poisoned Mr Litvinenko by putting the radioactive substance in his drink at the hotel. in central London, leading to a painful death.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) also ruled last year, following a case brought by the deceased’s widow, Marina Litvinenko, that Russia was responsible for his murder.

Russia has always denied any involvement in the death and had refused to comply with the international arrest warrants issued against Kovtun and also Lugovoi.

Sir Robert’s investigation into Litvinenko said the use of the radioactive substance – which could only come from a nuclear reactor – was a “strong indicator” of state involvement and that the two men were likely acting under the direction of Russia’s security agency the FSB, where Mr Litvinenko used to work for, as well as the KGB.

Possible motives included Mr Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence after his flight from Russia, his criticism of the FSB and his dealings with other Russian dissidents, while there was also a “personal dimension” to the contradiction between him and Mr. Putin.

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