UK to charge former KGB agent over Litvinenko death

British prosecutors will charge former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy with the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London last year after being poisoned with radioactive polonium.

The Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday there was enough evidence to charge Lugovoy and seek his extradition from Russia over the death of Litvinenko, who died an agonising death over several weeks after being poisoned with Polonium 210.

“I have today [Tuesday] concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrei Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning,” CPS head Ken Macdonald said in a statement.

The murkiest case of murder and espionage since the Cold War has strained relations between Britain and Moscow, and Tuesday’s announcement threatened to aggravate tensions further.

While the CPS said it would seek Lugovoy’s extradition, Russia’s Constitution does not allow for the extradition of its citizens.

In Moscow, a spokesperson for Russian prosecutors declined to comment on the charge against Lugovoy.

In a letter dictated on his hospital deathbed, Litvinenko, who had acquired British citizenship weeks before he was poisoned, accused the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin of his murder.

Moscow dismissed the accusation as ridiculous. It has launched its own investigation into Litvinenko’s death and denies that its security services played any part.

Macdonald said prosecuting Lugovoy would clearly be in the public interest.

“In those circumstances, I have instructed CPS lawyers to take immediate steps to seek the early extradition of Andrei Lugovoy from Russia to the United Kingdom, so that he may be charged with murder—and be brought swiftly before a court in London to be prosecuted for this extraordinarily grave crime,” he said.

Litvinenko met Lugovoy and another Russian businessman, Dmitry Kovtun, in the Pine Bar of London’s Millennium Hotel on November 1 last year, and within hours had fallen severely ill. He died in a London hospital on November 23.

Lugovoy, a former KGB bodyguard who later worked as head of security for tycoon Boris Berezovsky, has previously laughed off reports that Britain would seek his extradition. He has denied killing Litvinenko and lashed out at British media for demonising him.—Reuters

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