U.K. Government Urged to Step Up Litvinenko Response

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British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brisbane, November 15, 2014. Britain’s government must consider how to respond to a report into the death of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. David Gray/Reuters

The U.K. government was under mounting pressure on Thursday to step up sanctions against Russia after an inquiry found that Russian President Vladimir Putin "probably approved" the murder of an ex-KGB agent on British soil.

Home Secretary Theresa May came under fire from MPs for what was seen as her timid response to the judge-led report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. Speaking in the House of Commons, May said the spy's killing was "deeply disturbing," and represented "a blatant and unacceptable breach of...international law."

The inquiry found that two men, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, deliberately poisoned Litvinenko, and that Putin likely signed off the assassination. Both men deny the killing and the Kremlin has always denied any involvement.

On Thursday, May condemned Russia's "continued failure" to assist with bringing Litvinenko's killers to justice and said she has written to Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions to establish what further actions the U.K. can take to ensure the case is resolved.

She said that the U.K.'s Treasury would enact asset freezes against Lugovoi and Kovtun.

May insisted that the U.K.'s relationship with Russia was not "business as usual." She also said that the government would summon the Russian ambassador to express its "profound displeasure."

But opposition Labour Party spokesman Andy Burnham said that the government was at risk of looking "weak" if it did not do more in response to what he called "one of the most shocking and disturbing reports ever presented to this parliament." He called for a comprehensive review into the U.K.'s relations with Russia.

He also urged the government to consider implementing its own version of the Magnitsky Act, which enables the U.S. to withhold visas and freeze financial assets of Russian officials thought to have been involved with human rights violations.

David Davis, a member of parliament in May's own Conservative party, said that Russia was a "kleptocratic state," and that the U.K. government should consider implementing targeted economic sanctions against Putin and expelling Russian intelligence officers from the country. May said that British Prime Minister David Cameron would raise the report with Putin.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw called Russia a "rogue state" and said that "the British public will be aghast" that Lugovoi and Kovtun "have only today had their assets frozen by the Treasury."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said: "We regret that the purely criminal case was politicized and overshadowed the general atmosphere of bilateral relations," the BBC reported.