(CN) — Basing its conclusion on a British public inquiry into the fatal 2006 poisoning of former Russian spy and defector Alexander Litvinenko, the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that Russia was responsible for his death and should pay his widow damages.
The Strasbourg-based court condemned Russia for not assisting British investigators in their work, resisting demands to extradite two Russian suspects accused in Litvinenko's death and not properly conducting its own probes into the murder.
It ordered Russia to pay Litvinenko's widow 100,000 euros (about $117,000) in damages and 22,500 euros (about $26,000) in costs and expenses.
His widow, Marina Litvinenko, took Russia to the human rights court over her husband's killing, which caused an international scandal and an outpouring of anti-Russian sentiment as images of a dying Litvinenko were beamed around the world.
“It has taken 15 years to establish conclusively that Vladimir Putin murdered my husband, and to hold Russia accountable for its actions in an international court,” she said, according to The Guardian newspaper. “This ruling should make a turning point in the appeasement of Putin.”
The Kremlin rejected the court's findings and said it would not pay Marina Litvinenko for damages. Russia has long disputed the facts surrounding Litvenenko's death and denied any involvement. Russia's intelligence services are accused of a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations in recent years.
The court's finding will further fuel dangerous tensions between the West and Russia and came on the same day that British intelligence officials said they had evidence a third man was involved in a separate alleged poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter, Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Both poisonings took place in the United Kingdom.
Adding intrigue and casting doubt on Tuesday's decision against Russia, a Russian judge sitting on the seven-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights wrote a scathing, and vehemently pro-Russian, dissenting opinion that challenged the impartiality of the British investigation into Litvinenko's death that served as the basis for the Strasbourg court's ruling. He even suggested British intelligence agents may have been behind Litvinenko's death.
Litvinenko died in November 2006 after he was allegedly poisoned with polonium 210, a radioactive substance. British authorities accused two Russian men with past ties to Russia's intelligence services as being behind the killing.
A 2016 British public inquiry concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely ordered Litvinenko's assassination.
Litvinenko was a former agent for the Soviet and Russian secret services – the KGB and the FSB, respectively – who defected to the United Kingdom, where he and his family were granted asylum in 2001. He and his wife changed their names to Edwin Redwald Carter and Maria Anna Carter.
Litvinenko was a critic of Russia's intelligence services and accused them of having links to organized crime. He allegedly also worked with British, Spanish and Italian authorities, advising them on Russian organized crime and spy operations in Europe, the rights court said.
Andrey Lugovoy, a longtime acquaintance of Litvinenko, and Dmitry Kovtun were accused by British investigators of carrying out an assassination order against Litvinenko. The men met Litvinenko in London on the day he fell ill, allegedly after he drank tea poisoned with polonium in their hotel bar.
They allegedly tried to poison Litvenenko on previous occasions in October during visits to London. British investigators found traces of polonium in hotel rooms where the two men stayed and said it appeared the deadly substance was poured down a sink in their hotel room. Traces of polonium were found in other places where the two men went, including a restaurant where they dined, in a room where they had met Litvinenko in October, in a soccer stadium where they watched a game and on an airplane they took back to Moscow.