The Russian president Vladimir Putin “probably” approved the killing of former agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died after drinking green tea laced with radioactive polonium 210 at a hotel in central London in 2006.
The two killers put the polonium 2010 into a white porcelain teapot and left it for the teetotal Mr Litvinenko to drink. He died more than three weeks later in hospital.
The polonium 210 used in the murder by two Russian agents would have cost tens of millions of pounds on the commercial market, the family’s lawyers told an inquiry into his death. It required sophisticated laboratory facilities and access to a nuclear reactor adding to the evidence that it was a state-sponsored killing. Experts said it was most likely to have been made in a plant about 450 miles from Moscow.
Potential traces of a lethal toxin used by Russian and Chinese contract killers were found in the stomach of a wealthy Russian businessman found dead outside his Surrey home. Alexander Perepilichnyy died in November 2012 shortly before he was due to give evidence as a whistleblower into an alleged $230m fraud that implicated Russian tax officials in a conspiracy with organised criminals.
The question of whether he was poisoned – or died from natural causes – is currently being examined by a UK court. An earlier hearing heard that the presence of a signature chemical in Mr Perepilichnyy’s stomach was as likely to have an innocent explanation as to be associated with the toxic shrub, Gelsemium elegans, known as “heartbreak grass”. British police have been criticised for failing to swiftly identify the Russian as a potential victim of Russian assassins, leading to claims that opportunities to secure vital evidence were missed.
The Bulgarian dissident was killed by a poison-tipped umbrella in London in 1978. He was waiting for a bus on Waterloo Bridge when he felt a stinging pain in his thigh. A man dropped an umbrella at the scene and fled in a taxi. Mr Markov, thought little of the incident but died three days later with a high fever. It emerged that the weapon used was the umbrella retooled to fire a tiny pellet containing the poison ricin. The murder remains an unsolved mystery but Bulgarian secret services have been blamed for the killing after labelling the award-winning author a “non-person” after being humiliated by his stinging criticisms during broadcasts for the BBC.