A man named by a public inquiry as being one of the killers of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has branded the report’s conclusions “nonsense”.
Andrei Lugovoi said the inquiry presented “invention” and “supposition” and its chairman had “gone mad”.
The inquiry said Russian’s Mr Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun deliberately poisoned Mr Litvinenko and the killing was “probably approved” by President Putin.
Russia has accused Sir Robert Owen’s public inquiry of being “politicised”.
Sir Robert’s long-awaited report into Mr Litvinenko’s death found the two Russian men deliberately poisoned the 43-year-old in London in 2006 by putting the radioactive substance polonium-210 into his drink at a hotel. Both men deny any involvement in the killing.
Mr Litvinenko died as a result of his poisoning in November that year.
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Mr Lugovoi told the BBC: “I’ve seen the nonsense conclusions of your judge who has clearly gone mad.
“I saw nothing new there. I am very sorry that 10 years on nothing new has been presented, only invention, supposition, rumours.
“And the fact that such words as ‘possibly’ and ‘probably’ were used in the report, means there is no proof, nothing concrete against us.”
Sir Robert Owen, the public inquiry chairman, said he was “sure” Mr Litvinenko’s murder had been carried out by the two men and that they were probably acting under the direction of Moscow’s FSB intelligence service, and approved by the organisation’s chief, Nikolai Patrushev, as well as the Russian president.
He said Mr Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence agencies, his criticism of the FSB and Mr Putin, and his association with other Russian dissidents were possible motives for his killing.
There was also “undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism” between Mr Putin and Mr Litvinenko, he said.
The use of polonium-210 was “at the very least a strong indicator of state involvement” as it had to be made in a nuclear reactor, the report said.
Mr Lugovoi said there was no chance of him coming to Britain to face criminal charges.
“You know, it’s more likely that the moon will become part of the Earth, than that I will be extradited from Russia – it’s just impossible.
“You should understand correctly; if London 10 years ago accused me of something that carries a life sentence, what normal person would go to London to prove themselves?
“I’m Russian. Why should I trust you? I trust the Russian justice system.”
Mr Litvinenko fled to the UK in 2000, claiming persecution. He was granted asylum and later gained British citizenship.
In the years before his death, he worked as a writer and journalist, becoming a strong critic of the Kremlin.
The inquiry heard evidence that Mr Litvinenko may have been consigned to a slow death from radiation to “send a message”.
The inquiry’s findings were welcomed on Thursday by Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, who said she was “very happy” that “the words my husband spoke on his deathbed when he accused Mr Putin have been proved by an English court”.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK would have to go on having “some sort of relationship with them [Russia]” because of the Syria crisis, but it would be done with “clear eyes and a very cold heart”.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the murder was a “blatant and unacceptable” breach of international law.
She added the prime minister would raise the findings with President Putin at “the next available opportunity”.
The Litvinenko case
- 23 November 2006 – Mr Litvinenko dies three weeks after having tea with former agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun in London
- 22 May 2007 – Britain’s director of public prosecutions decides Mr Lugovoi should be charged with his murder
- 5 July 2007 – Russia refuses to extradite Mr Lugovoi, saying its constitution does not allow it
- May-July 2013 – The inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death is delayed as the coroner decides a public inquiry would be preferable – but ministers rule out the request
- 11 February 2014 – High Court rules the Home Office was wrong to rule out an inquiry before the outcome of an inquest
- January 2015 – Public inquiry begins
Long road to the truth for Litvinenko family