(P1) President Vladimir Putin probably approved the killing of a former Russian agent who died after drinking tea LACED with RADIOACTIVE poison, a British judge said Thursday in a strongly worded report that upset the Russian government.

(P2) Judge Robert Owen, who led the INQUIRY into the 2006 killing of Alexander Litvinenko (above), said he was certain that two Russian men had given Litvinenko tea containing a FATAL dose of polonium-210 during a meeting at a London hotel.

(P3) He said there was a “strong probability” that Russia’s FSB, successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB spy agency, directed the killing and that the operation was “probably approved” by Putin, then as now the president of Russia.

(P4) On his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Putin of ordering his killing, but this is the first public official statement linking the Russian president to the crime.

(P5) Britain SUMMONED the Russian AMBASSADOR for a DRESSING-DOWN Thursday and imposed a freeze on the financial ASSETS of the two main Russian SUSPECTS: Andrei Lugovoi, now a Russian lawmaker, and Dmitry Kovtun.

(P6) Moscow has always strongly denied being involved in Litvinenko’s death, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zhakarova said the Russian government did not consider Owen’s conclusions to be IMPARTIAL.

(P7) Litvinenko, a former FSB agent, fled to Britain in 2000 and became a vocal critic of Russia’s security service and of Putin, whom he accused of links to ORGANIZED CRIME. Owen said Litvinenko “was regarded as having betrayed the FSB” with his actions, and said “there were powerful motives for organizations and individuals within the Russian state” to kill him.

(P8) Marina Litvinenko, the spy’s WIDOW, said she was “very pleased that the words my husband spoke on his deathbed when he accused Mr. Putin have been proved by an English court.”

(P9) She also called for tougher action, urging British Prime Minister David Cameron to expel Russian intelligence agents operating in Britain and impose ECONOMIC SANCTIONS and travel bans on Putin and other officials linked to what her lawyer, Ben Emmerson, called “a mini-act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of London.”

(P10) U.K.-Russian relations have remained CHILLY since the killing of Litvinenko, who was granted British citizenship shortly before his death, and worsened with Russia’s involvement in the fighting in Ukraine. But the inquiry’s report comes as the two countries are cautiously trying to work together against the Islamic State group in Syria, and neither wants a major new RIFT.

(P11) British Home Secretary Theresa May said the involvement of the Russian state in Litvinenko’s killing was “a BLATANT and unacceptable BREACH of the most FUNDAMENTAL rules of international law and civilized behavior.”

(P12) Interpol had issued notices calling for the arrest of the two suspects if they travel abroad. Russia refuses to EXTRADITE the two men.

(P13) Announcing his FINDINGS at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Owen said “there can be no doubt that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun” in the Pine Bar of London’s Millennium Hotel on Nov. 1, 2006. He died three weeks later of acute radiation syndrome.

(P14) In his 326-page report, Owen said based on the evidence he had seen, the operation to kill Litvinenko was “probably” approved by then-FSB head Nikolai Patrushev, now head of Putin’s security council, and by Putin.

(P15) The judge laid out the OVERWHELMING scientific evidence against Lugovoi and Kovtun, including a trail of radiation that stretched from the hotel teapot to the sink in Kovtun’s room and even the Emirates stadium, where Lugovoi attended a soccer game.

(P16) He said the case for Russian state involvement was CIRCUMSTANTIAL but strong. Owen said Litvinenko had “personally targeted President Putin himself with highly personal public criticism,” allied himself with Putin’s opponents and was believed to be working for British INTELLIGENCE.

(P17) Litvinenko himself said he was working for Britain’s spy services, though British authorities have never confirmed it.

(P18) Owen said the method of killing, with radioactive poison, fit with the deaths of several other opponents of Putin and his government, and noted that Putin had “supported and protected” Lugovoi since the killing, even awarding him a medal for services to the nation.

(P19) While there was no direct proof, Owen said it was “likely” the FSB chief would have sought Putin’s approval for an operation to kill Litvinenko.

WORDS: 710



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. These events are very similar to the plot of the 1950 movie D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival). Do you enjoy spy and thriller movies?
  3. Do you think that the two suspects will ever leave Russia again?
  4. Great Britain and Russia are very UNEASY ALLIES on certain issues such as ISIS, and sometimes near-enemies on other issues. Who are your country’s main allies?
  5. What do you think MOTIVATES people to become spies and government agents?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Dressing-down
  • Organized crime
  • Economic sanctions

Cambly Practice Button


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s