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Russia could sue UK Government over Litvinenko report claiming Putin 'probably' knew about murder of spy

UK's report includes 'serious allegations against the Russian leadership, but contained absolutely no evidence,' claims minister

Nadia Beard
Tuesday 26 January 2016 11:13 GMT
Alexander Litvinenko at the Intensive Care Unit of University College Hospital
Alexander Litvinenko at the Intensive Care Unit of University College Hospital (Getty)

The British government could be sued for its comments about the inquiry into the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Russia’s foreign minister has said.

Addressing journalists at his annual press conference, Sergei Lavrov took aim at the report from Sir Robert Owen, the British judge who presided over the inquiry, which he said included “serious allegations against the Russian leadership, but contained absolutely no evidence”.

In line with the Kremlin’s narrative surrounding the results of the inquiry, which concluded that President Vladimir Putin is likely to have approved the murder, Mr Lavrov criticised the use of the word “probably” in the report and warned that the “circus surrounding the Litvinenko case” will hurt relations between Russia and the UK.

“Not ‘probably’ or ‘possibly’. Definitely,” he said.

Mr Lavrov also offered a fuller denial of a report last week which detailed the mission of a senior Russian intelligence officer to Damascus late last year to pass on a message to Syrian President Bashar al Assad from Vladimir Putin, asking him to step down.

“It’s not true,” Mr Lavrov said.

Mr Lavrov added that Russia had neither offered nor received a request from Mr Assad for political asylum in the event of him having to flee his country.

“We have made no such suggestion,” he said.

“And we have neither received nor offered any form of asylum.”

Mr Lavrov urged that leading Kurdish groups should be included as part of the Syrian peace talks due to begin this Friday, but said the decision as to who to invite to the talks would be left to the United Nations.

“It will be the most serious mistake not to invite Kurds, but we will not impose any veto,” he said.

The foreign minister also announced that Russia had no plans to take back any refugees who crossed over the border into Norway via Russia, accusing them of lying about their “true purpose” for being in the country.

"The talk is about people who arrived in Russia with a purpose of either to work in Russia or to visit relatives,” he said.

“They had not declared their true purpose of their visit as a transit to Norway.

Russian ambassador accuses UK of 'provocation'

“This means that they had deliberately stated false data about the purpose of their visit to the Russian Federation. This is why we do not want to admit these people back to Russia.”

Russia and Norway have been at loggerheads over the fate of more than 5,500 refugees who crossed the border into the Scandinavian country from northern Russian city Murmansk by bicycle, with neither country wanting to grant them asylum.

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