Gordievsky said he was convinced that Putin was behind the 2006 assassination of his friend Alexander Litvinenko, who had defected to Britain in 2000. In December it emerged that Litvinenko had been working for the British and Spanish secret services at the time of his death. An inquest into Litvinenko’s murder will take place later this year.
Controversially Hague wants to keep the government’s Litvinenko files secret — to appease Moscow, according to critics.
Gordievsky said he got to know Litvinenko “quite well” in the years before his murder.
“He was crazy about fitness. He would run for miles. He visited me at home seven times. He also came with Marina [Litvinenko’s wife]. We talked on the telephone. He would talk and talk,” he said.
He added of Litvinenko: “He was absolutely in love with the Chechen people. He liked their traditions and independence.”
Litvinenko decided to defect after growing disillusioned with the FSB, which he felt had betrayed its ideals, Gordievsky said. In exile in London, Litvinenko remained “very Russian,” Gordievsky recalled, attacking the Kremlin and Putin in “typically aggressive Russian style” and writing defiant articles.
“I think the main reason he was killed was because he defended [the Putin critic Boris] Berezovsky,” he said.
Gordievsky said the operation to slip radioactive polonium-210 into Litvinenko’s teacup was approved from the top.
He reasoned: “Nobody would dare to carry out an assassination abroad in an important country like Britain without authorization.”
The KGB was always adept at using poisons, Gordievsky pointed out: “They made them at a facility outside Moscow called the Fabrika. The KGB also produced a fantastic collection of [fake] foreign passports.”