UK-Russia war of words (so far) over the Litvinenko findings

January 25, 2016

UK Home Secretary Theresa May statement to Parliament Jan 21 on the publication of the Report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko (extracts)

Mr Litvinenko’s death was a deeply shocking event. Despite the ongoing police investigation, and the efforts of the Crown Prosecution Service, those responsible have still not been brought to justice.

Although the Inquiry cannot assign civil or criminal liability, I hope that these findings provide some clarity for Alexander Litvinenko’s family, friends, and all those affected by his death. I would particularly like to pay tribute to Mrs Marina Litvinenko and her tireless efforts to get to the truth.

The Inquiry – which in the course of its investigations has considered “an abundance of evidence” – has found that Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun. The Inquiry has also found that there is a strong probability that they were acting under the direction of the Russian domestic security service – the Federal Security Service or FSB. And that the FSB operation was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, the then head of the FSB, and by President Putin.

The conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing. It goes without saying that this was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s murder remains open. And I can tell the House today Interpol notices and European Arrest Warrants are in place so that the main suspects, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun, can be arrested if they travel abroad.

In light of the report’s findings the Government will go further, and Treasury Ministers have today agreed to put in place asset freezes against the two individuals.

The independent Crown Prosecution Service has formally requested the extradition of Mr Lugovoy from Russia, and Russia has consistently refused to do so. Russia’s continued failure to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime can be brought to justice is unacceptable. I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions this morning asking her to consider whether any further action should be taken, both in terms of extradition and freezing criminal assets. These decisions are, of course, a matter for the independent Crown Prosecution Service. But the Government remains committed to pursuing justice in this case.

We have always made our position clear to the Russian government and in the strongest possible terms and we are doing so again today. We are making senior representations to the Russian Government in Moscow. And at the same time we will be summoning the Russian Ambassador in London to the Foreign Office, where we will express our profound displeasure at Russia’s failure to co-operate and provide satisfactory answers. Specifically, we have, and will continue to demand that the Russian Government account for the role of the FSB in this case.

In the Government’s recently published National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we set out the range of threats to the UK and our allies – including from Russia – and our comprehensive approach to countering these threats. Since the publication of the previous SDSR in 2010, Russia has become more authoritarian, aggressive, and nationalist. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilising actions in Ukraine have directly challenged security in the region. These actions have also served as a sobering demonstration of Russia’s intent to try to undermine European Security, and the rules-based international order. In response, the UK, in conjunction with international partners, has imposed a package of robust measures against Russia. This includes sanctions against key Russian individuals, including Mr. Patrushev who is currently the Secretary to the Russian Security Council.

This Government is clear that we must protect the UK and her interests from Russia-based threats, working closely with our allies in the EU and NATO. This morning I have written to my counterparts in EU, NATO and 5 Eyes countries drawing their attention to both the report and the need to take steps to prevent such a murder being committed on their streets.

We will continue to call on President Putin, for Russia, as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to engage responsibly and make a positive contribution to global security and stability. They can, for example, play an important role in defeating Daesh, and – together with the wider international community – help Syria work towards a stable future. We face some of the same challenges – from serious crime to aviation security. And we will continue to engage, guardedly, with Russia where it is strictly necessary to do so to support the UK’s national interest.

Mr Speaker, Sir Robert Owen’s report contains one recommendation within the closed section of his report. Honourable Members and Rt Honourable Members will appreciate that I cannot reveal details of that recommendation in this House. But I can assure them that the Government will respond to the Inquiry Chair on that recommendation in due course.

Mr Litvinenko’s murder was a truly terrible event. I sincerely hope that for the sake of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko, for the sake of Mr Litvinenko’s wider family and friends, and for the sake of justice, those responsible can be brought to trial.

Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko’s response at a meeting at the Foreign Office

1. We consider the Litvinenko case and the way it was disposed of a blatant provocation of the British authorities.

2. We will never accept anything arrived at in secret and based on the evidence not tested in an open court of law.

3. The length of time that it took to “close” this case in this way makes us to believe it to be a whitewash for British special services’ institutional incompetence.

4. We also noted that the British government suspended the coroner’s inquest which was open for public and media and where the Investigative Committee of Russia took part as an interested person, in favor of the public enquiry, which in fact is secret, at the height of political tension with Russia over Ukraine in July 2014. We view it as an attempt to put additional pressure on Russia in connection with existing differences over a number of international issues.

5. For us it is absolutely unacceptable that the report concludes that the Russian state was in any way involved in the death of Mr Litvinenko on British soil.

6. This gross provocation of the British authorities cannot help hurting our bilateral relationship.

 

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