Was Putin involved in Litvinenko's death?

A British judge has concluded that Vladimir Putin "probably" approved the murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning shortly after a meeting with two Russian agents. Will Moscow face reprisals?

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Contributors (RO) /

Stop doing business with Russia

Instead of speculating about Putin's involvement in the murder of Litvinenko the West should take proper action to re-establish its moral credentials, Edward Lucas writes in the blog portal Contributors:

“Far more effective would be to investigate the tide of Russian dirty money which swills through the streets of the City. British banks, law firms, accountants and others have behaved with blatant, shameless greed in their dealings with Russia. ... Yet the City of London saw nothing wrong in allowing [Russian oil company] Rosneft to list its shares in 2006 - only weeks before Mr Litvinenko was murdered. That was the equivalent of letting foreigners sell stolen property on the streets of London. Far from calling the police, our financiers queued up to take a cut.”

Libération (FR) /

Putin's power crumbling

As with similar cases in the past Putin will play the victim and try to pin the blame on others, but his strategy could fail this time around, the centre-left daily Libération believes:

“Putin is no longer the all-powerful man adored by his people for having put Russia back in centre stage. While the country has become indispensable on the geopolitical level, as is clear in the Middle East, Putin is very weak economically. The rouble has lost 12 percent of its value since the start of the month and the price of oil (Moscow’s principal source of income) continues to plummet. The Russian population is suffering, and could turn against its hero all the more quickly as he increasingly gets bogged down in foreign military ventures (Ukraine and Syria) that are devouring the country's slim resources. ... The situation now offers Europe's leaders the chance to up the pressure on the Kremlin.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Moscow will go unpunished

Britain's hands are tied as regards Litvinenko's death and Russia knows it, the conservative paper The Daily Telegraph comments:

“How to tackle the Litvinenko case in any way that makes a difference, while we are working with Russia at the UN and elsewhere on Iran, Syria and terrorism? No good answer, because there isn’t one. Russia’s economy is already under significant economic sanctions because of its brutal involvement in Ukraine, with the falling oil price adding new pain. Further UK targeted financial sanctions or asset freezes here and there won’t make any real difference to the Kremlin’s calculations. … Moscow’s Putinist establishment tells more lies, and smirks at its own droll cleverness.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Investigation thanks to Ukraine conflict

The fact that the British investigators reopened the case at all is down to two circumstances, the conservative daily El Mundo points out:

“Firstly, the admirable tenacity of the former agent's widow, Marina Litvinenko, who has never flinched in her indefatigable campaign to have the truth uncovered. Yesterday she was delighted to see a judge finally point to Putin as responsible for the crime. And secondly, the cooling in relations between the European Union and Russia in the context of the Ukraine conflict. Because only in this tense situation - with EU sanctions bearing down on Moscow - did the British government change its strategy and order an investigation which for years it didn't want to hear any mention of for fear of provoking the Kremlin's ire.”

Pravda (SK) /

Not a millimetre closer to the truth

Even if all the evidence points towards the Kremlin it hasn't been conclusively proven that Putin commissioned Litvinenko's murder, the left-wing daily Pravda points out cautiously:

“Even after the British judge's conclusion yesterday that the murder of the former Russian agent was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin, we are no closer to the truth than we were ten years ago. … We know that radioactive polonium-210 was found in Litvinenko's body - a substance produced only in Russia under stringent controls. We know that Litvinenko met with agents Lugovoi and Kovtun shortly before his death. … But until Lugovoi and Kovtun make a statement before the judge in the UK every comment must contain the word 'probably'.”

More opinions

Die Presse (AT) / 22 January 2016
  A contribution to uncovering the truth (in German)