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Summary

  1. President Putin "probably" approved murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, public inquiry concludes on 21 January, 2016
  2. Widow Marina Litvinenko "very pleased" with report and calls for UK government action against Russia
  3. Russian Foreign Ministry says inquiry was "politicised"
  4. Mr Litvinenko died in London in 2006 from effects of radiation poisoning

Live reporting

By Emma Ailes and Martha Buckley

Summary of the day's events

We are ending our live coverage of reaction to the conclusions of the Litvinenko Inquiry here.

We leave you with a recap of the main events of the day.

  • Judge Sir Robert Owen's report on the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin "probably" approved his murder 
  • The long-awaited report found two Russian men - Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun - deliberately poisoned Mr Litvinenko by putting radioactive polonium-210 into his tea at a hotel
  • Mr Putin is likely to have signed off the poisoning in part due to personal "antagonism" between the pair, as well as because of his work for British intelligence agencies, criticism of Russian authorities, and association with other Russian dissidents, the report says.
  • David Cameron promises the UK is "toughening" its action against Russia. He says UK will have to continue "some sort of relationship with them [Russia]" but with "clear eyes and a very cold heart"
  • Russian Foreign Ministry reacts to the inquiry calling it "politicised" and saying it has "overshadowed the general atmosphere of bilateral relations"
  • Mr Putin's spokesman says Moscow's official response will happen through "diplomatic channels". Mr Putin himself has not commented, 
  • Home Secretary Theresa May faces criticisms from all parties in the Commons, including calls from Labour for the 2018 Fifa World Cup to be taken away from Russia
  • Widow Marina Litvinenko says she is "very pleased" with the report and calls for a UK government travel ban for Mr Putin and sanctions against Russia  
  • Russian suspect Andrei Lugovoi calls the allegations against him "absurd", while his fellow suspect Dmitry Kovtun says he will react once he has more information about the report findings

Kremlin: 'We didn't initiate this freezing of relations'

BBC Monitoring

Here's that quote from Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spoksman, in full, taken from the Russian news agency, Interfax.

This (investigation) can be seen as the product of the elegant sense of humour of the British, when a public and closed investigation rests on undisclosed information from unnamed intelligence services and the ample use of the words 'possibly' and 'probably'.

Russia was never the initiator of the freezing of bilateral relations [with the UK]. Such quasi-investigations can undoubtedly only poison the atmosphere of our bilaterial relations even further.

'Not funny'

Peskov
BBC

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the report on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was the product of "the elegant sense of humour of the British".

Downing Street has responded by saying: "The murder of someone in Britain, the pain and torment this has caused for his family and an independent inquiry with such conclusions is far from that."

The Litvinenko Inquiry in numbers

Litvinenko grave
BBC

The Press Association has put together some of the key statistics contained in the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko: 

  • 50 micrograms - the minimum amount of polonium-210 believed to have been put into the teapot from which Mr Litvinenko drank at the Millennium Hotel in London on 1 November, 2006.
  • 100 grams - the approximate amount of polonium-210 made in nuclear reactors each year around the world. 
  • 4.4 gigabecquerels - the radioactivity of Mr Litvinenko's likely total intake of polonium-210. Roughly 10,000 becquerels, when ingested, is enough to kill a person. 
  • £2,000 per month - Mr Litvinenko's payments for supplying information to British intelligence, which began in 2004. 
  • £2.2m - the total cost of the inquiry into Mr Litvinenko's death. 
  • 22 days - the length of time between Mr Litvinenko's poisoning and his death, on 23 November, 2006. 
  • 60locations - the number of places examined and assessed by more than 200 officers as part of the police investigation into his death.
  • 15 countries - the number of nations to which requests for legal assistance were made as part of the investigation. 
  • 135,000 words - the approximate length of the inquiry report, running to almost 330 pages. 
  • 17 months - total length of the inquiry from the formal setting up date to the submission of the report. A total of 62 witnesses gave oral evidence. 

PM: 'We have clear eyes and a cold heart in our dealings with Russia'

Mr Cameron has not ruled out further punitive action, saying he will look carefully at the report, but he says the UK has to continue to conduct relations with Russia on some level to try to resolve the conflict in Syria.

We have a pretty difficult relationship with the Russians in any event. We totally disapprove of what they're doing in Syria, bombing the moderate opposition. That is making the situation worse, not better. We put sanctions in place, led the arguments in Europe for sanctions because of their illegal action in the Ukraine.

But do we at some level have to go on having some sort of relationship with them because we need a solution to the Syria crisis? Yes, we do, but we do it with clear eyes and a very cold heart.

PM: 'Report confirms what we always believed, that it was state-sponsored action'

Cameron
BBC

Mr Cameron says: "What we've added today is further asset freezes, writing to the prosecuting authorities to see what more can be done."

He called the murder "absolutely appalling", adding: "This report confirms what we always believed, and what we believed at the time of this dreadful murder, that it was state-sponsored action."

BreakingPrime Minister: 'Be in no doubt, we're toughening our action against Russia'

Prime Minister David Cameron tells the BBC: "Be in no doubt, this shocking event was reacted to years ago when it happened and we're toughening our action again today."

Litvinenko murder: Why would Putin want him dead?

Explainer
BBC

The BBC's Richard Galpin explains the accusation that Vladimir Putin ordered Alexander Litvinenko's killing.  

Watch his analysis here.

BreakingPutin spokesman: Response will be through diplomatic channels

BBC Monitoring

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow's response to the UK report on the Litvinenko killing will happen through "diplomatic channels". 

"All the necessary answers will of course be given through diplomatic channels," Dmitry Preskov was quoted saying by the Interfax news agency.

The teapot at the heart of a murder

Teapot
BBC

A white teapot was at the centre of the murder inquiry that shocked the world and plunged Britain's relations with Russia into crisis. 

Dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko died three weeks after drinking tea at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, central London, in November 2006. 

After his death, every teapot at the hotel was tested and only one bore evidence of contamination, the probe heard. 

Extremely high readings were detected on the porcelain pot, which was given the exhibit number NJH/1. 

The highest levels were found on the inside of the spout. One expert estimated that at least 50 micrograms of polonium 210 was placed into the teapot.

The inquiry report said forensic evidence showed the Pine Bar was heavily contaminated, with the highest readings taken from the table where Mr Litvinenko was sitting and from the inside of one of the teapots. 

"No comparable levels of contamination were found in any of the other places that Mr Litvinenko visited that day," it said. 

In his conclusions, inquiry chairman Sir Robert Owen wrote: "I am sure that Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun placed the polonium 210 in the teapot at the Pine Bar on November 1 2006."

Former British Ambassador to Moscow: 'Need for justice above diplomatic pussyfooting around'

Sir Andrew Wood
BBC

Sir Andrew Wood, who was UK ambassador to Moscow between 1995 to 2000, the year that Alexander Litvinenko left Russia for the UK, said it was "about time" blame was placed at the door of the Kremlin.

He said he was relieved that the conclusions were "so clear, so well-argued, and so demonstrable".

I think it brings out a very clear and very important issue as to the nature of Russia today, as to the need for justice above diplomatic pussyfooting around, and as to the value of putting on record so that we all know what we're dealing with.

He said the idea that there was processed polonium available on the streets was "extraordinarily unlikely".

Much more likely was the probability that someone at a senior level must have give the poison to them.

I think it's highly unlikely that low-level operatives would seek to poison someone here without some sort of clearance, even if it's only a nod, from higher up.

The government needs to make some concrete gestures about this murderous incident, and to take note of what this means about Russia today.

#PutinProbablyApproved

Analysis by Oleg Boldyrev, BBC Moscow correspondent

For years Moscow rejected allegations of high-level involvement into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

The fact Russian President Putin himself is now associated with this assassination has not changed anything. Taking their lead from Robert Owen’s use of the words “high probability”, the second tier of the Russian establishment, mainly Kremlin-loyalist MPs, are dismissing the entire report as a politically-based fabrication.

Russians on social media are making fun of its conclusions by using the hashtag ‘PutinProbablyApproved’ in Russian to include all manner of crimes. (#ПутинВозможноОдобрил).

So too are Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. Their story has become so well-rehearsed that no amount of detail published in London is likely to change that. 

For almost 10 years both had to stay in Russia as there are international warrants for their arrest. It is unlikely they still have any assets to be frozen by the British authorities.

One member of parliament, Nikolai Kovalev, himself an ex-FSB boss, pointed out relations between Moscow and London would not be harmed by the report as there was no room for making them any worse.

Litvinenko 'won't be last critic to end up dead'

CNN is running an opinion piece - Don't let Vladimir Putin get away with murder on British soil - by William Browder, the CEO and co-founder of investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, which was once the largest foreign investor in Russia. 

His previous accusations of Russian corruption have seen him barred from the country and tried in absentia for tax evasion. 

He believes Alexander Litvinenko "wasn't the first critic of Vladimir Putin to end up dead, and he won't be the last".

Suspect sent 'nuclear death' T-shirt

T-shirt from inquiry
PA
Back of T-shirt from inquiry
PA

Murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi is said to have given this t-shirt to an associate in Moscow and asked for it be delivered as a "gift" to billionaire Boris Berezovsky, a friend of Mr Litvinenko's, in 2010. 

The front says: "Polonium-210 CSKA London, Hamburg. To Be Continued", while the back says: "CSKA Moscow Nuclear Death Is Knocking Your Door". 

Inquiry chairman Sir Robert said: "The T-shirt could be seen as an admission by Mr Lugovoi that he had poisoned Mr Litvinenko, made at a time when he was confident that he would never be extradited from Russia, and wished to taunt Mr Berezovsky with that fact. 

"Alternatively, it could, perhaps, be seen as an extraordinarily tasteless joke." 

Mr Berezovsky died at his Berkshire home in 2013.

Russia is monstrous gangster state, warns Liam Fox

Liam Fox
BBC

Former Conservative Defence Secretary Liam Fox says the West has "a policy of wishful thinking" towards Russian relations. 

People like myself who criticised Russia's behaviour were regarded as hawkish and provocative. But I think it's very clear that this is a monstrous gangster state that we face in Russia and we can't possibly treat them as an equal partner in global affairs."

Picture: Russian ambassador faces the media

Alexander Yakovenko, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation,
PA
Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko speaks to the media after being summoned to the Foreign Office following the findings of the Litvinenko inquiry

'Political poisonings' before Litvinenko murder

The Owen inquiry report draws attention to several political poisonings in the years before Alexander Litvinenko’s murder in 2006.

In particular, he mentions “an apparent attempt to poison Viktor Yuschenko, the anti-Moscow candidate in presidential elections taking place in Ukraine” in September 2004.

The BBC Radio programme Witness has just broadcast an interview with the former Ukrainian president about how he was poisoned. You can find it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03fcjh5

Inquiry will harm relations, Russian ambassador warns

In his statement to reporters, Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko also says Russia will not accept any decisions reached in secret and based on evidence not tested in open court.

The length of time taken to come to these conclusions led them to believe it was "a whitewash of British security services incompetence", he adds.

He went on to say that these events "can't help but harm our bilateral relations".

'The man who solved his own murder'

The Guardian has a feature on the Litvinenko case titled "The man who solved his own murder." It features details of the witness statements Alexander Litvinenko gave to police. Read here

Unacceptable conclusion, Russian ambassador says

BBC Monitoring

The Russian ambassador in the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, rejects the outcome of the Litvinenko inquiry.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for us that the report contains the conclusion that the Russian state is somehow involved in Litvinenko's death on British soil," he says after being summoned by the Foreign Office in London.

Andy Burnham: 'Most disturbing report ever'

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham has described the murder of Alexander Litvinenko as an "act of state-sanctioned terrorism": 

"I don't believe a more disturbing report has ever been presented to this Parliament. This was an act of state-sanctioned terrorism, an attack on London, sanctioned at the very highest levels of the Russian government and putting thousands of Londoners at risk. Given that, I don't believe the government's response today went anywhere near far enough."

David Davis: 'You can't just tell them off'

Senior Conservative MP David Davis, who was shadow home secretary when Mr Litvinenko was murdered, says the government needs to take firm action against Russia.

"On our streets, an act of murder - not just an act of murder; they didn't sort of covertly knife him to death so it looked like a mugging, they made it very plain that they were executing him, that's what the polonium was about. So, we have to respond very firmly. You can't just tell them off."

Who's who in the Litvinenko case?

A host of names linked to the Litvinenko case have been mentioned throughout the morning. Here is some background on some of those individuals.

Litvinenko
AP

Alexander Litvinenko: A Russian soldier, who became a spy at the Soviet intelligence agency, the KGB (later the Federal Security Services, or FSB). 

After falling out with Vladimir Putin, then his boss at the FSB, he fled to the UK where he eventually became a British citizen and began working for MI6. 

He was murdered in London in 2006. Read a full profile here.

Nikolai Patrushev
AFP

Nikolai Patrushev: Currently the secretary of the Security Council of Russia. He was director of the FSB, during Vladimir Putin's first two terms as president (1999-2008) and was very close to him.

Inquiry chairman Sir Robert Owen said: "Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin."  

Mr Patrushev said last year in an interview with a Russian newspaper that the United States "really would like it if Russia did not exist at all as a state".

Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun have denied any involvement and remain in Russia
Getty
Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun have denied any involvement and remain in Russia

Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun: For many years, these two Russians have been the chief suspects in Mr Litvinenko's murder. 

Mr Lugovoi had been in the FSB and the federal protection service, and continued to have strong links to the FSB.

Mr Kovtun is a former Soviet army officer who has said he was at one point a member of the Russian army intelligence corps. He announced in March that he wanted to testify to the inquiry, but later said he would communicate only via email.

Both have denied any involvement in the murder, and there has been no sign that they will be extradited from Russia to face charges in the UK.

Read a full profile here.  

Putin
EPA

Vladimir Putin: According to the Kremlin website, Mr Putin wanted to work in Soviet intelligence "even before he finished school".  

He served as a spy in communist East Germany - with some of his ex-KGB comrades later receiving top state posts when he became president.

He entered Boris Yeltsin's Kremlin in 1997, and was made chief of the Federal Security Service, and then prime minister, and finally president in 1999.

During his presidential period, many of his critics have been exiled abroad.

The Litvinenko inquiry concluded that he "probably" approved the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, one of his vocal critics, because of personal "antagonism" between them.

Read a full profile here.

Litvinenko prime suspects profiled

Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun have long been named by British police as prime suspects but attempts to extradite them from Russia have failed. They have always denied any involvement. Read our profile of the men

Russian foreign ministry condemns Litvinenko inquiry

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariya Zakharova says the inquiry "denigrates' Russia, its official representatives and leadership".

Kovtun attacks 'fabricated evidence' of inquiry

BBC Monitoring

Dmitry Kovtun, one of the men suspected of killing Alexander Litvinenko, again denies involvement.

"I am not involved in Litvinenko's death. As for the outcome of the public inquiry that has been published in London, Robert Owen could not have reached any other conclusions based on the falsified and fabricated evidence," he tells Interfax.

President Putin 'probably' approved Litvinenko murder

Here's how our news story has captured today's events:

The murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 in the UK was 'probably' approved by President Vladimir Putin, an inquiry has found.

Mr Putin is likely to have signed off the poisoning of Mr Litvinenko with polonium-210 in part due to personal "antagonism" between the pair, it said.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the murder was a "blatant and unacceptable" breach of international law.

But the Russian Foreign Ministry said the public inquiry was "politicised".

It said: "We regret that the purely criminal case was politicised and overshadowed the general atmosphere of bilateral relations."

Mr Litvinenko's widow Marina welcomed the report, calling for sanctions to be imposed on Russia and a travel ban on Mr Putin.

Her husband died aged 43 in London in 2006, days after drinking tea poisoned with the radioactive substance.

The former Russian spy - who is believed to have later worked for MI6 - had been a fierce critic of the Kremlin.

Read the full story here

What part did secret evidence play in inquiry findings?

Analysis by Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent

The conclusions of this inquiry are stronger than many expected in pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin personally - although the evidence behind that seems to have come from secret intelligence heard in closed session.

Saying that Alexander Litvinenko was killed because he was an enemy of the Russian state will raise pressure on the British government to take real action - the steps taken nearly a decade ago were only limited in scope.

That may be pose difficulties given the importance of Russia's role in the Middle East but, without tough action, people may ask if the Russian government has been allowed to get away with what's been described as an act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of London.