One of the primary suspects in the assassination of former Russian spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, Alexander Litvinenko, has died of Covid-19.
Dmitry Kovtun was one of two persons accused by UK police of poisoning Litvinenko in London in 2006. Kovtun died in a hospital in Moscow on Saturday, according to the Tass state news agency.
Andrei Lugovoi, another suspect in the killing, posted on social media that his “dear friend” had died.
Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who gained a British citizen and became an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was poisoned with a radioactive material in a London hotel where he met the two men.
He became unwell shortly after the encounter and was rushed to the hospital. His illness deteriorated, and he died on November 23, a few weeks later.
A public enquiry undertaken in the United Kingdom ten years later determined that the killing was “likely sanctioned” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Litvinenko accused President Putin of ordering his assassination from his deathbed.
According to the UK investigation, Lugovoi and Kovtun, both former KBG officials, poisoned Litvinenko by spiking his cup of green tea with the lethal chemical Polonium-210.
British authorities discovered evidence of the chemical in locations where the two men had gone, including businesses and hotels.
Separately, Russia was found to be culpable for the killing by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last year.
Both men denied carrying out the murder, and Russia refused to extradite them to the United Kingdom to stand trial.
Kovtun was born in 1965 and attended the Soviet command academy in Moscow before joining the KGB’s protection section.
He was serving in East Germany when the Soviet Union fell apart, and he escaped to Hamburg with his first wife to seek political asylum. He eventually went to Russia, where he is said to have been recruited by Lugovoi.
Kovtun told the Interfax news agency after the UK investigation was released: “I had nothing to do with Litvinenko’s death. Based on the faked and manufactured material, the outcome of the public inquiry released in London could not have reached any other conclusions.”