THE widow of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko has told the inquiry into his death that he believed Vladimir Putin was involved in “criminal conduct” and lacked the skills to root out corruption in Russia’s security service.
Marina Litvinenko said her ex-KGB agent husband met the Russian president in 1998 when he was head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) after Mr Litvinenko was suspended for exposing a plan to assassinate Russian billionaire Boris Berozovsky.
Giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Mrs Litvinenko, 52, said: “Sasha (Alexander) said it was not a productive meeting at all and he didn’t believe there will be any action after.
“He didn’t believe Putin, as director of FSB, could make any change on his position.
“Sasha didn’t believe his professional skills. He had never been on the ground ... he was a person who did not really understand the job like Sasha did in fighting organised crime.
She added: “On his position of deputy mayor of St Petersburg, Sasha believed (Putin) was involved in some criminal conduct.”
Mrs Litvinenko said she did not know details of Mr Putin’s alleged criminal connections but, at that time, St Petersburg was known as “the criminal capital of Russia”.
The inquiry heard Mr Litvinenko feared for his life when he gave a televised press conference later that year, in December 1998, in which he discussed corruption within the FSB and a plan by a senior officer to kill Mr Berozovsky.
“(Sasha) said it was a very extraordinary event and there were two ways now - they will kill him or he will be arrested,” Mrs Litvinenko told the inquiry.
Mr Litvinenko, 43, died at University College Hospital nearly three weeks after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 while meeting two Russian men - one a former KGB officer - at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.
His family believes he was working for MI6 at the time and was killed in November 2006 on the orders of the Kremlin.
Former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects in the killing, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia.
Earlier, Mrs Litvinenko told the inquiry she had not spoken to her father-in-law Valter Litvinenko since he gave an interview on Russian television two years ago in which he branded his son a “traitor”.
She said: “Two years ago he said he didn’t know Sasha (Alexander) worked for MI6. He thought he is a big traitor and he wanted to ask Putin to get him back to Russia.
“What he said before was absolutely the opposite. “When I heard this, it was absolutely shocking.”