The Litvinenko inquiry has been condemned by Russia as a political “whitewash” engineered to “slander” the country which would further “darken” already-frosty relations.
Moscow dismissed the finding that Valdimir Putin probably authorised the dissident’s murder by the state security service as a “gross provocation” connected to deep disputes over Ukraine and other issues.
And the two agents identified in the report as the killers said it was “crazy” and discredited the British justice system.
It represents a fresh blow to diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were plunged into the deep freeze by the 2006 killing in London.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zhakarova told reporters: “There was one goal from the beginning: slander Russia and slander its officials.”
Painting the behind-closed-doors probe as a “shadow puppet theatre”, she added: “We regret that a purely criminal case has been politicised and has darkened the general atmosphere of our bilateral relations.”
Moscow’s anger was expressed by its ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko when he was summoned for talks with minister David Lidington.
The embassy said he had made clear it “considers the Litvinenko case and the way it was disposed of a blatant provocation of the British authorities”.
”We will never accept anything arrived at in secret and based on the evidence not tested in an open court of law,” it went on.
“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.
Andrei Lugovoi, who gained immunity from prosecution when he was elected to the Russian parliament in 2007, claimed he had been denied the chance to give evidence.
The inquiry report said he declined to.
“These announcements from the British parliament completely discredit the British legal system — completely — in the eyes of any sensible, normal person,” he said.
His alleged co-killer Dmitri Kovtun was quoted by the Tass news agency as blaming “false evidence”.
“The crazy evidence is easily refuted,” he was reported to have said.
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