Court Orders Russia to Pay Over $143,000 in Fines to Widow of Poisoned Ex-KGB Agent

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ordered Russia to pay over $143,000 in fines to the widow of an ex-KGB agent who died after drinking tea containing poison, the Associated Press reported.

The court denied Marina Litvinenko's request that she receive "punitive" damages for the death of her husband, Alexander Litvinenko, but it directed Russia to provide her the euro equivalent of $117,000 in damages and $26,400 in costs, for a total of $143,400.

Alexander Litvinenko had served as an agent for the KGB, the Soviet Union's top security agency, and its successor, the FSB. He defected in 2000 from Russia and traveled to London, where he worked on revealing corruption and connections to organized crime in Russia's intelligence service, the AP said.

After drinking tea with two Russian men at a London hotel on November 1, 2006, Litvinenko became ill and died after spending three weeks in a hospital. The tea he drank was reportedly spiked with radioactive polonium-210.

The European court ruling on Tuesday supported the findings of a British probe that said Russia was responsible for Litvinenko's death, the AP said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Court Ruling on Alexander Litvinenko's Death
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday backed the conclusion of a British inquiry that Russia was responsible for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with a radioactive material. Above, Litvinenko, a former KGB spy and author of the book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within," at his London home on May 10, 2002. Alistair Fuller/AP Photo

The British inquiry concluded in early 2016 that Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun had killed Litvinenko and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had "probably approved" the operation. Both Lugovoi and Kovtun have denied any involvement in the killing.

Marina Litvinenko took the case to the Strasbourg, France–based court, vowing to get justice for her husband. Both Britain and Russia are members of the Council of Europe, which was founded in 1949 to uphold human rights on the continent in the aftermath of World War II. One of its main responsibilities is to oversee the work of the European Court of Human Rights, which seeks to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The Court found in particular that there was a strong prima facie case that, in poisoning Mr. Litvinenko, Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun had been acting as agents of the Russian State," it said in its judgment.

It also noted that the Russian government had "failed to provide any other satisfactory and convincing explanation of the events or counter the findings of the U.K. inquiry."

Marina Litvinenko welcomed the court's ruling that the Russian state was responsible for her husband's death and said it highlighted the "undemocratic regime" in Moscow.

"This case helps other people not give up and try to change what might happen in Russia. One day Russia [could] become a better country to everybody," she told Sky News.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov brushed aside Tuesday's court judgment. "We're not ready to take such rulings on board," he told reporters.

Lugovoi, who is now a lawmaker in the Russian parliament, called the ruling "idiotic" and said it undermined the reputation of the court.

"After such a ruling, such an institution as the European Court simply does not exist for me," he told the Govorit Moskva radio station. "I believe this is absolutely politically biased ruling that has nothing to do with lawfulness."

Marina Litvinenko
Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, reads a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on January 21, 2016. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo