back to top

25 Things We Learned From The Alexander Litvinenko Inquiry Report

Shortly before his death, Litvinenko had accused Vladimir Putin of being a paedophile, according to the 328-page report released on Thursday.

Posted on

A six-month UK inquiry into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 has concluded he was poisoned with a radioactive isotope, "probably" on the orders of the Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Alexey Sazonov / AFP / Getty Images

Women at a memorial for Litvinenko in Moscow in 2008.

Here are 25 key findings from the 328-page report, which the Kremlin has said will "poison" relations between the UK and Russia.

1. Early in his career for Russian intelligence, Litvinenko became convinced that Vladimir Putin and Nikolai Patrushev were involved in a KGB scheme to smuggle heroin from Afghanistan to western Europe.

Putin and Patrushev, the former head of the KGB successor organisation the FSB, "probably" ordered the murder of Litvinenko, the inquiry concluded.

2. There was no evidence to suggest Litvinenko had abused prisoners during the war in Chechnya.

Those claims had originated from his former FSB boss Alexander Gusak, who was known to have a personal animosity towards Litvinenko.


3. Litvinenko sympathised with the Chechens fighting against the Russian army.

He compared them to Russians who fought Nazi Germany in World War II, the inquiry noted.

4. While still working for Russian intelligence, Litvinenko joined a secret KGB unit that carried out assassinations upon high profile political and business figures.

The assassination of Boris Berezovsky was also discussed at some point.

5. Litvinenko met Putin, then head of the FSB, in June 1998 to discuss corruption and unlawful conduct.

Litvinenko wrote in his book The Gang from the Lubyanka: "He came out from behind the desk… to greet me. Apparently, he wanted to show an open, likeable personality. We, operatives, have a special style of behaviour.

"We do not bow to each other, do without pleasantries – and so everything is clear. Just look into each other's eyes and it becomes clear, do you trust the person or not. And I immediately had the impression that he is not sincere. He looked not like an FSB director, but a person who played the director."


6. A press conference organised by Berezovsky in which Litvinenko appeared unmasked to denounce FSB practices led Putin to conclude he had breached the FSB code of loyalty.

7. Litvinenko flew an English flag from his house during the World Cup after being made a naturalised British citizen along with his family in 2006.

Chris Mcgrath / Getty Images

Vladimir Putin, pictured with David Cameron during last year's G20 meeting in Turkey, has warned the report will "poison" UK-Russia relations, according to his spokesperson.

8. Litvinenko became very attached to the Chechen cause in the years before his death, and converted to Islam on his deathbed.


9. Litvinenko appeared reluctant to name Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun as suspects in his murder, or even admit that he had met them.

This was apparently not to give the impression that the men were safe from prosecution, but more because of wounded professional pride he had let himself be poisoned by people he knew.

10. Litvinenko did not write his deathbed statement but did read and approve it when it was translated into Russian for him.

This statement was read outside hospital the day after Litvinenko died:

"I would like to thank many people. My doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing all they can for me; the British Police who are pursuing my case with rigour and professionalism and are watching over me and my family. I would like to thank the British government for taking me under their care. I am honoured to be a British citizen.

I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife, Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds.

But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people."

11. There was widespread belief in Russia that Litvinenko had betrayed the FSB and had begun to work for MI6.

Video footage showed Russian soldiers using targets featuring Litvinenko's face.


12. The FSB tried to implicate Litvinenko in a plot to kill Putin, which was reported to the Metropolitan police and led to two Russian men being deported.

13. Litvinenko was paid £2,000 a month to work for UK intelligence agencies, his widow Marina said.

The Home Office neither confirmed nor denied that Litvinenko was working as a consultant on Russian organised crime.


15. Litvinenko was understood to be working for the Spanish authorities investigating Russian mafia operating in Spain.

He had been due to travel with Lugovoi to Spain days before he was poisoned.

16. He enlisted Lugovoi for help in an investigation for a private security company in London.

But the information Lugovoi presented was mostly culled from Russian websites. Litvinenko's attempt to find sources for his work for private security companies led him to contact Lugovoi, an old acquaintance.

17. There is a suggestion Lugovoi was briefly imprisoned in Russia on false charges of helping an associate of Berezovsky escape from prison.

The fabricated plot could have been an attempt to integrate Lugovoi into Berezovsky's circle of trust.


18. Litvinenko was worried in the summer of 2006 by new laws passed in Russia legalising the use of lethal force against perceived enemies of the state outside of the country.

20. In October 2006 he accused Putin of being responsible for the murder of campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya, in an appearance at London's Frontline Club.

View this video on YouTube

21. At a memorial service in London for Politkovskaya, who was gunned down outside her Moscow flat, Litvinenko said he thought he was beyond the reach of the Russian state.

"I just received my citizenship, now they will not be able to touch me," he said.


23. Tests suggested that Lugovoi spilled large quantities of the radioactive isotope at hit room in the Sheraton Hotel.

He mopped up the liquid with towels which he placed in the laundry.

24. In July 2010, three years before his death, Berezovsky was presented with a T-shirt by an acquaintance who had been given it by Lugovoi in Moscow.

The text reads: “POLONIUM-210 CSKA LONDON, HAMBURG To Be Continued” and "CSKA Moscow Nuclear Death Is Knocking Your Door”.

25. Lugovoi was indifferent about Litvinenko drinking the tea the inquiry concluded was used to poison him

"There is still some tea left here, if you want you can have some," Lugovoi told Litvinenko when he arrived at the hotel bar. The judge believed the indifference was because Lugovoi felt he had other opportunities to poison Litvinenko, and did not want to appear overly keen to do so.

Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.