European Court of Human Rights compels Russia to pay over €120K to Aleksandr Litvinenko’s widow

Russia was responsible for the assasination of Aleksandr Litvinenko in the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights stated on September, 21. In their opinion, the Russian side failed to provide sufficient evidence that its government had nothing to do with the alleged murderers, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, who were never prosecuted in Russia.

Еuropean Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg, 13 March 2012. Photo: CherryX / Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

In today’s judgment in the case of Maria Anna Carter aka Marina Litvinenko v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been:

  • unanimously, a failure by the Russian Government to comply with their obligations under Article 38 (obligation to furnish necessary facilities for the examination of a case) of the European Convention on Human Rights,
  • by 6 votes to 1, a violation of Article 2 (right to life) in its substantive and procedural aspects.

“In January 2016 the inquiry [carried out by the UK] found it established, beyond reasonable doubt, that Mr Litvinenko had been poisoned using polonium and that the poison had been administered by Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun. It excluded accidental or deliberate self-poisoning. It also rejected the suggestion that Mr Lugovoy had been set up by British intelligence. The inquiry noted the motives that entities within the Russian State may have had for wishing Mr Litvinenko dead, and the evidence of links between Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun and the Russian State. On the strength of both open and closed evidence, it found that Mr Lugovoy had been acting under FSB direction and Mr Kovtun had also been acting under FSB direction, possibly indirectly through Mr Lugovoy but probably with his knowledge,” the European Court of Human Rights says in Tuesday’s statement.

The Court held that Russia was to pay the applicant 100,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 22,500 in respect of costs and expenses. The Russian side’s motion asking not to rely on the conclusions of British investigators, was rejected.

Commenting on the ruling, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that as the Kremlin considered the ECHR’s conclusions as ‘unfounded’, it would not pay close heed to them.

In 1988-1999 Aleksandr Litvinenko worked for the Soviet KGB and later – for the Russian FSB, specializing in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. In 1998, he claimed that his superiors had ordered him to kill businessman Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko and his family fled to the UK, where he was granted political asylum and began cooperating with British intelligence MI6, openly criticising Putin and accusing him of numerous crimes.

Litvinenko became widely known in 2006 when a group of FSB officers made public the facts about illegal orders and corruption in the agency. In their telling, Litvinenko and his colleagues were ordered to murder, kidnap and injure several persons who prevented Russian power players from cashing in on their positions.

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In the wake of the meeting with former FSB officers Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun in November 2006, Litvinenko landed up in hospital; the former colleagues presumably gave him tea containing radioactive polonium, He had symptoms of radiation sickness; irreversible damage to internal organs was caused by the radioactive element that cannot be found on the black market, but can only be taken from a nuclear reactor. Aleksandr Litvinenko was dying in torment for 22 years. Shortly before the poisoning, Litvinenko faulted Vladimir Putin for being corrupted and laid the blame for blowing the apartment blocks in 1999 on the FSB.

In spite of a diplomatic conflict, Russia refused to deliver Andrei Lugovoy, who, according to British investigators, added polonium to Litvinenko’s tea and left radioactive traces around London, as well as his companion, Dmitry Kovtun. Instead of being detained, Lugovoi was awarded the medal ‘For Merit to the Fatherland’. In 2011, Andrei Lugovoy became a member of Russian parliament; he represented the Liberal Democratic Party and contributed to the law on the pre-trial blocking of web pages.

In the course of open court hearings held in London in January 2016, it was recognized that the responsibility for the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko is on the Russian government and the murder was ‘probably’ approved by President Vladimir Putin and the then FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev.

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