Many believe Dmitry Kovtun killed Alexander Litvinenko (Picture: AP / Getty Images)
One of the men accused of poisoning former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London has died of Covid.
Dmitry Kovtun was accused with ex-FSB operative Andrei Lugovoy – now a ultranationalist MP – of carrying out the killing in 2006.
Mr Litvinenko, a British citizen, was a former KGB officer who had become an outspoken opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He died in agony weeks after drinking green tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at London’s Millennium Hotel, where he met Kovtun and Lugovoy.
From his deathbed, he accused Putin of ordering his killing, but the Kremlin has always denied any role.
British investigators found traces of polonium at sites across London where the two men had been, including in offices, hotels, planes and the Arsenal soccer stadium.
Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in 2006 (Picture: AP)
They denied carrying out the poisoning, and Russia refused to extradite them to face trial.
A judge at a British inquiry into the case concluded in 2016 that the murder was an operation of Russia’s FSB spy agency that was probably approved by its director at the time, Nikolai Patrushev, and by Putin himself.
Russia’s TASS news agency said on Saturday Kovtun died in a Moscow hospital aged 56.
Lugovoy said: ‘Today we have the sad news that my close and loyal friend Dmitry Kovtun passed away suddenly as a result of a serious illness linked to a coronavirus infection.
Dmitry Kovtun was part of Putin’s inner circle (Picture: AFP / Getty Images)
‘This is an irreplaceable and difficult loss for us. From the bottom of my heart I express my deepest condolences to all of Dima’s (Dmitry’s) relatives and friends.
‘Sleep well, dear friend! We will never forget you.’
Following on from the allegations in 2006, there were always questions surrounding Kovtun’s health.
His relatively early death is likely to increase speculation he suffered long-term health damage himself while administering the poison.
A TASS source said: ‘Dmitry Kovtun died today in a Moscow hospital from the effects of Covid.’
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