Litvinenko killing 'had state involvement'
The murder of Alexander Litvinenko was carried out with the backing of the Russian state, according to Whitehall sources. A senior British security official has told Newsnight "we very strongly believe the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement; there are very strong indications that it was a state action".
Furthermore officers at MI5 believe they thwarted an attempt last June to kill Boris Berezovsky, the London based critic of then president Vladimir Putin.
A Russian citizen, called 'Mr A' in the report but whose identity is known to Newsnight was arrested on 21 June 2007 and deported four days later. Speaking on Newsnight, Mr Berezovsky said that plain clothes officers came to his office soon after the suspected hitman arrived in London on 16 June and urged the businessman to leave the UK immediately. Mr Berezovsky speculates that Mr A was not put on trial because British intelligence did not want to reveal the source who had warned them that Mr A was travelling to London.
According to the senior security source, the Berezovsky incident of June 2007 showed "continued FSB willingness to consider operations against people in the West". MI5 believes that the FSB, Russia's internal security organisation, operated under President Putin with far more autonomy than the organisations usually entrusted with foreign espionage operations (the SVR and GRU). The senior security source feels that the targeting of Russian government critics in the UK has serious diplomatic repercussions: "[it] messes up the relationship big time".
In recent months the Director General of the Security Service, Jonathan Evans, has expressed concern about the high level of espionage operations by Russian spies under diplomatic cover. The service believes there are about 30 operating from Russian diplomatic missions in the UK. However the evidence of FSB involvement in the Litvinenko and Berezovsky cases has taken tensions between the two countries to a new level.
Check out Newsnight's previous reports on Litvinenko case: