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The grave of Alexander Litvinenko at Highgate Cemetery in London, England. Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Russia "was responsible for the assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko" in London.

Why it matters: Former KGB officer Litvinenko, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in 2006 after being poisoned in London with Polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope. Russia has always denied any involvement in his death.

What they found: The court noted in its ruling that a public inquiry in the United Kingdom found in 2016 that Litvinenko's killing had been carried out by former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, a businessman and former KGB agent. The U.K. inquiry said Putin "probably approved" the killing.

  • "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," the European court said.
  • Lugovoi and Kovtun have always denied being involved in the killing, but the European court said it was "beyond reasonable doubt" that the pair were behind it.
"The planned and complex operation involving the procurement of a rare deadly poison, the travel arrangements for the pair, and repeated and sustained attempts to administer the poison indicated that Mr Litvinenko had been the target of the operation."
— Excerpt from European court ruling

The bottom line: "Had the pair been involved in a 'rogue operation,' the information to prove that theory would lie entirely in the Russian authorities' hands," the European court concludes.

  • "However, the Government had made no serious attempt to provide such information or to counter the findings of the UK authorities."

Driving the news: Litvinenko's widow, Marina Litvinenko, brought the case against Russia to the Strasbourg-based rights court.

Of note: Lugovoi was elected in 2007 as a member of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of the country's parliament. He was awarded a state medal "for services to the fatherland" in 2015.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Appeals court denies DOJ's request to suspend Texas abortion ban

People protesting Texas' abortion ban outside of the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Oct. 2. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

A three-judge panel for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied the Department of Justice's emergency request to suspend Texas' abortion ban, which bars the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or roughly six weeks — before many people know they are pregnant.

Why it matters: The ruling allows the ban to continue to be enforced as the courts consider the law's constitutionality. It's one of the most restrictive bans to be enforced since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.