The British public is relatively chilled about the Kremlin assassinating people on UK soil, poll finds

Most people told pollsters the killing of Alexander Litvinenko was simply a fact of international espionage

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Indy Politics

The British public is relatively unconcerned about the apparent assassination of Alexander Litvinenko by Russian agents on British soil, a new poll suggests.

An official inquiry found that Mr Litvinenko, who died from radioactive poisoning in London in 2006, was “probably” ordered to be killed by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The former FSB agent, who was living in London under asylum after he accused Russian FSB agents of assassinating an oligarch, worked as a writer and consultant for the British intelligence services. 

Pollsters YouGov asked the public whether the incident was “an outrage” that merited action against the Russian government or “one of the facts of international espionage” that required no special response.

41 per cent of the public responded that the assassination was simply a fact of life, while just 24 agreed it was an “outrage”. 14 per cent of the public responded “neither” and 21 per cent said they did not know.

The public’s world-weary response somewhat contrasts with the Government, which has taken new measures in response to the inquiry’s findings. 

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the freezing of assets of two men believed to have administered the poison – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun.


Opposition MPs and some Conservative backbenchers have said the Government’s response has not gone far enough, however.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said the response did not “go anywhere near enough in answering the seriousness of the findings” and suggested the immediate expulsion of every Russian FSB operative from the UK, as well as new economic sanctions against the country.

Russia’s foreign ministry described the inquiry’s findings as “politically motivated” and that the killing of Mr Litvinenko was a “purely criminal” matter.

YouGov conducted the poll of 2677 UK adults on 22 January 2016. The company confirmed to the Independent that the poll was properly weighted to represent GB demographics.

The full wording of the options was "This kind of thing is one of the facts of international espionage and there is no need to treat this event any differently" and "This is an outrage and the British government should take serious action against the Russian government".