Gordon Rayner and Tom Whithead, The Telegraph
Vladimir Putin is a “common criminal dressed up as a head of state” who allegedly ordered the murder of Alexander Litvinenko to stop the former spy exposing him, the inquiry was told.
Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko poisoned with polonium not once, but twice, lawyers say
Former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium not once but twice, a British judge was told Tuesday, as an inquiry opened into the slaying one lawyer called an act of nuclear terrorism ordered by Moscow.
Ben Emmerson, attorney for Litvinenko’s widow, said the KGB spy turned Kremlin critic was the victim of an “assassination by agents of the Russian state.”
He said the 2006 killing “was an act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of a major city which put the lives of numerous other members of the public at risk.”
Litvinenko was murdered for trying to reveal Putin’s close links to organized crime and a cabal of crime lords who prop up his corrupt regime, it was claimed.
Queen’s counsel Ben Emmerson, representing the Litvinenko family, said the trail behind the “act of unspeakable barbarism” led directly to the Russian president’s door.
Emmerson said that Russia was a “Mafia state” where the “intimate relationships” between the Kremlin and Russian organized crime syndicates around the world were so close as to be “effectively indistinguishable.”
Litvinenko could even identify crimes committed or authorized by Putin personally, it was claimed.
The seeds of hatred that Putin had towards his former agent which would eventually lead to the murder were first sown in clashes more than eight years before, the inquiry was told.
Putin was a “ruthless and deadly enemy” and “we find Mr. Putin’s fingerprints as clearly as we find the traces of nuclear material in the forensic evidence,” he said.
In his opening statement, Emmerson said: “Vladimir Putin should be unmasked by this inquiry as nothing more or less than a common criminal dressed up as a head of state.”
“The startling truth which will be revealed by the evidence in this inquiry is that a significant part of Russian organized crime is organized directly from the offices of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a Mafia State.”
Litvinenko accused Putin of his murder from his deathbed in what Emmerson described as a “political assassination.” He said there was “not the slightest doubt” that he was murdered by suspects Andey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun and on the orders of Putin.
“He had to be eliminated – not because he was an enemy of the Russian State itself or an enemy of the Russian people – but because he had become an enemy of the close-knit group of criminals who surround Vladimir Putin and keep his corrupt regime in power,” he said.
The history between Putin and Litvinenko began in 1997 when the latter – still a Federal Security Service (FSB) agent – was given orders to kill Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Queen’s counsel Robin Tam, counsel to the inquiry said.
Litvinenko thought it “improper” and the following year met Putin – then head of the FSB – to urge him to call off the assassination.
He went on to stage a televised press conference where he revealed the story, reporting the order to kill Berezovsky and denouncing corruption in the Russian intelligence service.
Tam said: “Is it possible that Litvinenko’s actions in Moscow on that day in November 1998 led to him being poisoned in London eight years later?”
Once in Britain, Litvinenko became an outspoken critic of Putin.
He also accused the Russian president of ordering the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist.
In a direct message to Putin made from his death bed, he said: “You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.”