Alexander Litvinenko: Russian accused of poisoning former spy dies

Russia poisoners

Many believe Dmitry Kovtun killed Alexander Litvinenko (Image: AP/Getty Images)

One of the men accused of poisoning former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London has died from Covid.

Dmitry Kovtun, along with former FSB agent Andrei Lugovoy – now an ultranationalist MP – was accused of carrying out the 2006 killing.

Mr Litvinenko, a British citizen, was a former KGB officer who had become an outspoken opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He died in agonizing weeks after drinking green tea with radioactive polonium-210 at London’s Millennium Hotel, where he met Kovtun and Lugovoy.

From his deathbed, he accused Putin of ordering his assassination, but the Kremlin has always denied any role.

British investigators found traces of polonium in locations across London where the two men had stayed, including offices, hotels, airplanes and Arsenal football stadium.

**FILE** This photo released by the family of Alexander Litvinenko shows former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko in his hospital bed at University College Hospital in central London in this photo dated Monday November 20, 2006. The poisoned Russian Spy Alexander Litvinenko died in an intensive care unit on Thursday, November 23, 2006, London's University College Hospital said. Litvinenko, a fierce critic of the Russian government, was suffering from a rapid deterioration in his health but doctors could not determine the cause of death, a spokesman said in a statement. (AP Photo/Family Handout) **NO SALE**

Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in 2006 (Image: AP)

They denied carrying out the poisoning, and Russia refused to extradite them for trial.

A judge at a British inquiry into the case concluded in 2016 that the killing was an operation by Russia’s FSB spy agency, likely sanctioned by its then-director Nikolai Patrushev and by Putin himself.

As the Russian news agency TASS announced on Saturday, Kovtun died at the age of 56 in a Moscow hospital.

Lugovoy said: “Today we have the sad news that my close and loyal friend Dmitry Kovtun passed away suddenly as a result of a serious illness related to coronavirus infection.

Businessman Dmitry Kovtun, a suspect in the murder of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, speaks about his involvement in Britain's probe into the radiation death during a news conference in Moscow April 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Dmitry Kovtun was part of Putin’s inner circle (Image: AFP / Getty Images)

“This is an irreplaceable and heavy loss for us. From the bottom of my heart I express my deepest condolences to all relatives and friends of Dima (Dmitry).

“Sleep well, dear friend! We will never forget you.’

Following the allegations in 2006, questions about Kovtun’s health continued to surface.

His relatively early death is likely to fuel speculation that he himself may have suffered long-term health damage from administering the poison.

A TASS source said: “Dmitry Kovtun died today in a Moscow hospital of complications from Covid.”

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Justin Scacco

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