British inquiry says Vladimir Putin 'probably approved' poisoning of former KGB officer

A policeman leaves the Millennium Hotel
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Former K.G.B. officer turned British MI6 spy Alexander V. Litvinenko was poisoned in 2006, an action British investigators are now saying was "probably approved" by Vladimir Putin himself, The New York Times reports. Litvinenko died 22 days after drinking green tea laced with the rare isotope polonium 210 in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in London; Litvinenko was in the company of Russian associates Andrei K. Lugovoi and Dmitri V. Kovtun, both of whom deny the accusations. Lugovoi and Kovtun say Litvinenko was trying to poison them.

The British report listed possible motives of the Kremlin, including the belief that Litvinenko betrayed the Russian Federal Security Service, F.S.B., while working for the organization in Moscow and had begun to work for the British as a spy after fleeing to London in 2000. Litvinenko was also reportedly friends with prominent opponents of the Kremlin, and himself a critic too. While in Moscow, Litvinenko had specialized in taking on organized crime.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov said the Litvinenko murder "is not among the topics that interest us." However, the accusations out of Britain very well may chill relations between London and Moscow.

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Before he died, Litvinenko released a statement from his deathbed warning that, "You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life."

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