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Russian security service blamed for defector’s high-profile death

The findings of a British inquiry into the demise of former Russian spy and high-profile defector Alexander Litvinenko were released Thursday, concluding that Litvinenko’s 2006 death by polonium poisoning was the result of a Russian government operation, likely personally approved by President Vladimir Putin. Chris Ship of Independent Television News begins our coverage.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The death by poisoning of a former Russian spy in London was thrust back into the headlines today, as a British inquiry into his killing released its report.

    Alexander Litvinenko fled Russia nearly 20 years ago and accused the former chief of Russia's spy agency, now-President Vladimir Putin, of corruption. In 2006, he met two Russian spies at a London hotel, and three weeks later, he was dead.

    Chris Ship of Independent Television News begins our coverage.

  • CHRIS SHIP:

    We were reminded today that the radioactive poison inside Alexander Litvinenko's body was so strong, he had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin. Today, the Russian security service the FSB was blamed for his killing. And the orders, concluded the man who led the inquiry, most likely came from the top, the very top, he said.

  • SIR ROBERT OWEN, Litvinenko Inquiry Chairman:

    The operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin.

  • CHRIS SHIP:

    The FSB agents did it by pouring a deadly substance, polonium-210, into this teapot from which Mr. Litvinenko was drinking.

    This was him in a hotel lobby a few moments before the meeting. He took just three or four sips of tea, he later told police, but after he'd left the hotel, the radiation had already started to spread through his body.

    At the inquiry, the poisoning in a meeting room at the hotel here was referred to as a mini-act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of London. And because the orders likely came from the Kremlin, Mr. Litvinenko's widow has demanded today the strongest possible response from the British government.

    MARINA LITVINENKO, Widow of Alexander Litvinenko: It's time for David Cameron. I'm calling immediately for complete expulsion from the U.K. of all Russian intelligence operatives.

  • CHRIS SHIP:

    Later, she told me she hopes justice would catch up with President Putin.

  • MARINA LITVINENKO:

    Yes, we know not all dictators exist forever, and, one day, you need to answer for everything, what you did.

  • THERESA MAY, Home Secretary, United Kingdom:

    This was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilized behavior.

  • CHRIS SHIP:

    If there was any doubt Litvinenko was a target of the Russian state, watch this video of Russian special forces in training, their target, Alexander Litvinenko.

    But the man accused of the poisoning, Andrei Lugovoi, now, by the way, a senior Russian politician, said today, "The accusations against me are absurd and once again confirm London's anti-Russian stance."

    Nothing from President Putin himself today, but Britain's reliance on him in the fight against I.S. in Syria may limited the U.K.'s response for a murder which turned this man into this one days before his death.

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