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Litvinenko row to go the way political winds blow

January 22, 16:25 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© AP Photo/Matt Dunham

MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. It looks like Washington and London have long looked forward to a pretext for shifting the confrontation with Moscow into a higher gear. This is well-seen in how fast some US and British politicians jumped at the possibility of taking "certain measures" towards Russia following the publication of the public inquiry’s verdict regarding the death of a former Russian federal security service FSB officer, Alexander Litvinenko, in a London hospital nearly ten years ago, polled Russian politicians told TASS.

High Court Judge Robert Owen presented his verdict, passed on Litvinenko's death caused by polonium poisoning, on Thursday. Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, earlier confirmed her husband had collaborated with British secret services. It took Scotland Yard quite a while to investigate the case. The High Court in 2011 held a hearing that ended inconclusively.

During the latest court inquiry the judge questioned several dozen witnesses and studied secret documents presented by secret services. Another six months was required for passing a 329-page verdict. The document says the materials of open hearings are not available, because the investigators relied on secret British government documents that cannot be made open to public scrutiny. Nevertheless, Owen arrived at the conclusion that Litvinenko, a former FSB officer, died because Andrey Lugovoy, a former FSB agent himself, and businessman Dmitry Kovtun, poisoned him with polonium-210. The two men are suspected of putting the radioactive substance in a teapot in London’s bar Pine, where they had a meeting with Litvinenko. The whole operation, the judge ruled, may have been approved by FSB chief Nikolay Patrushev and that Russian President Vladimir Putin was possibly in the know.

London is actively discussing the possibility of taking sanctions against Russia. The oppositional Liberal-Democratic Party has been persuading the prime minister to take a package of restrictive measures. Part of David Cameron’s fellow Conservative Party members have joined their voices to the chorus of criticism. In the meantime, as the Guardian says, the Foreign Office is keen to avoid imposing new sanctions on Russia. The US Administration does not rule out that it may resort to certain steps in connection with the British judiciary’s conclusions regarding Litvinenko’s death, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday.

The deputy chairman of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Andrey Klimov, believes that London and Washington are represented not by one person or one party: "Some politicians in the West look pretty board with Russophobia, while others on the contrary are increasingly zealous in fanning tensions over the Litvinenko affair."

"If US and British political circles remain interested in joint efforts with Russia in the struggle against international terrorism, the Litvinenko case will soon be forgotten. But if the White House and Downing Street think that they can cope with international problems on their own, without acting in concert with the Kremlin, steadfast Russophobes will do their utmost to squeeze the Litvinenko case, exhumed ten years later, to the last drop," Klimov told TASS.

As far as the public opinion is concerned, most ordinary people in the West are very curious over what role Litvinenko had been playing in London, and who might like to see him dead. As for hackneyed allegations against Putin, the public opinion no longer responds to them, and anti-Russian circles will have no serious chance to saddle this hobbyhorse for imposing more restrictive measures against Moscow, he believes.

State Duma member, head of the Polity foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov, suspects that the outcome of hearings on the Litvinenko case was made for purely political reasons on the basis of some secret materials no one but Judge Robert Owen had been allowed to see.

"I believe that the ten-year-old affair of a former FSB officer, poisoned in London, has been brought into the limelight again in order to give British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama a free hand. Otherwise, there would’ve been no hasty response to Owen’s report," Nikonov told TASS.

"A certain warming in relations between Russia and the European Union, as well as prospects for the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions, might have urged some politicians in Washington and London to tighten restrictive measures against Moscow. So another row over Litvinenko’s death came in handy. In the final count all will depend on whether the West has genuine intention to further coordinate efforts with Russia for settling the crises in Syria and Ukraine. Or if it has none," Nikonov said.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors