One of the men accused of killing Alexander Litvinenko in London has died of COVID-19.
Dmitry Kovtun, along with Andrei Lugovoy, allegedly carried out the assassination in 2006 on behalf of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
Kovtun died in a Moscow hospital, the Russian news agency TASS said on Saturday.
Lugovoy, now a prominent member of the Russian parliament, said he was saddened by the death of a “close and loyal friend”, the bureau reported.
Mr Litvinenko, a British citizen, was a former KGB agent who went on to work for MI6 after fleeing to the United Kingdom.
He had also become an outspoken critic of the Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He died a painful death after being poisoned in London after his tea was decorated with Polonium 210, a rare and very powerful radioactive isotope.
From his deathbed, he accused President Putin of ordering his assassination, but the Kremlin has always denied any role.
A judge at a British inquiry into the case concluded in 2016 that the assassination was an operation of the Russian FSB espionage agency that was probably approved by its then-director, Nikolai Patrushev, and by President Putin himself.
Their investigation also found that former KGB bodyguard Lugovoy and fellow Russian Kovtun carried out the murder.
British investigators found traces of polonium at places in London where the two men had been, including in offices, hotels, planes and the Arsenal football stadium.
They refused to carry out the poisoning, and Russia refused to extradite them for trial.
Tensions between Mr Litvinenko and President Putin date back to their only face-to-face meeting in 1998, when Mr Putin was head of the FSB and Mr Litvinenko pushed for reforms of the intelligence service.
Read more: Alexander Litvinenko Murder – A Timeline
The death of Mr Litvinenko led to international protests and further strained relations between Moscow and the West.
Fingers were once again pointed to the Kremlin over poisonings on British soil in 2018, when attempts were made to assassinate former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a novichok nerve agent.
Three Russian men have been charged about the Salisbury poisonings, but the British authorities have not yet been able to bring them to justice.
Alexander Litvinenko: Russian man suspected of killing former spy dies at COVID-19 | World news
Source link Alexander Litvinenko: Russian man suspected of killing former spy dies at COVID-19 | World news