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Alexander Litvinenko: court judgment on assassinated Russian spy has cross-border implications

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The European court of human rights has ruled that Russia is responsible for the 2006 assassination of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in the UK. The six to one judgment is significant for human rights standards, even 15 years after Litvinenko died by poisoning with the radioactive substance polonium-210.

Litvinenko’s story feels lifted from a film script. In Russia, he had been an agent of the Federal Security Service (FSB, formerly known as KGB), working in the organisation crime unit and anti-terrorism department. In 1998, Litvinenko publicly accused the FSB of conducting illegal operations, including assassinations. He was dismissed from the agency and arrested, but subsequently released. Two years later he left Russia and was granted asylum in the UK.

In London, Litvinenko did not lay low. He exposed corruption in Russia, publishing the book Blowing up Russia, which claimed FSB was behind a number of terrorist attacks in Russia.

In 2006, Litvinenko was lethally poisoned – an unusual event on British soil that shocked the public and drew intense media scrutiny. The high-profile case led to a lengthy UK inquiry led by Sir Robert Owen, concluding that his murder was “probably” approved by the Russian government.

UK police established that Litvinenko had been poisoned by his acquaintances, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, one of whom was also a former KGB agent. Litvinenko fell ill after drinking tea – later found to be laced with the poisonous substance – with the........

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