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Spy accused 'paedophile' Putin

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Marina Litvinenko is to give evidence to the inquiry into the death of her husband

Marina Litvinenko is to give evidence to the inquiry into the death of her husband

Marina Litvinenko is to give evidence to the inquiry into the death of her husband

The widow of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko has told the public inquiry into his death that her husband accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of being a paedophile.

Marina Litvinenko said ex-KGB agent Mr Litvinenko wrote an article shortly before his death in 2006 which questioned why Mr Putin kissed a young boy's stomach under his t-shirt during a tour of the Kremlin.

The inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London was shown a copy of the article which featured a photograph of Mr Putin and the boy and the headline "Kremlin Paedophile."

Giving evidence today, Mrs Litvinenko, 52, said: "It was written in 2006 after everybody saw how Putin behaved when he met a little boy in a Kremlin tour group. He went under his t-shirt and kissed his stomach."

Robin Tam QC, counsel to the inquiry, said: "You have no idea if that allegation is true?"

Mrs Litvinenko replied: "No I have no idea."

She told the inquiry her husband was paid £2,000 a month for "consulting" British intelligence services after claiming political asylum in the UK.

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.

Mrs Litvinenko denied that her husband was "employed" as an agent for MI6 but said he did "consult" British and Spanish intelligence services after fleeing Russia.

Asked by Mr Tam whether Mr Litvinenko provided the names of Russian sleeper agents to MI6, she replied: "I have no idea."

Mrs Litvinenko said her husband wrote a number of books about Mr Putin and corruption within the Federal Security Service (FSB).

She told the inquiry that Mr Litvinenko claimed the Russian president was a KGB informant during his university years, that he had links to criminal gangs while serving as deputy major of St Petersburg - which was then the "criminal capital of Russia" - and Mr Putin had penetrated the circle of advisers to the country's former leader Boris Yeltsin.

His "most famous allegation", however, was his claim that the FSB planned the Russian apartment bombings in 1999, which claimed 293 lives and led to the second Chechen war, Mrs Litvinenko added.

She also claimed the family's phone was bugged after her husband gave a televised press conference in Russia in 1998 in which he claimed he had been asked by senior FSB officers to kill billionaire Boris Berezovsky.

Mrs Litvinenko said her husband had been involved in a conversation with FSB officers and the head of his unit in 1997 when it was suggested that he kill Mr Berezovsky, who had worked on a peace treaty with Chechnya.

"This question was directed to Sasha like; 'You kill him?'", she said. "Sasha didn't answer at first. For Sasha it was a really strange question."

Mrs Litvinenko told the inquiry her husband met Mr Putin - then head of the FSB - in 1998 after was suspended for making a complaint about the alleged plot.

She 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."

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 the alleged plan to kill Mr Berezovsky and claims of corruption within the FSB.

"(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.

She said Mr Berezovsky, who was found hanged in March 2013, had previously credited Mr Litvinenko with saving his life after the murder of the popular head of a TV station in 1995.

Mr Litvinenko prevented two police officers from taking the billionaire in for questioning about the murder as "they could say he had a heart attack and then make it easier to blame Boris Berezovsky's for this crime," Mrs Litvinenko said.

"After that Boris Berezovsky said many times that Sasha had saved his life and he was very grateful," she added.

Mrs Litvinenko said her husband secretly fled to Georgia in late 2000 while she travelled to Spain. They reunited in Turkey where they had an application for political asylum rejected by the US embassy.

Instead they flew to Heathrow, with their son Anatoly, when Mr Litvinenko told a police officer at the airport that he was a KGB officer and requested political asylum, the court heard.

After their application for asylum was accepted in May 2001, the family adopted new names and used the surname "Carter", the inquiry was told.

Mrs Litvinenko said her husband was "very proud to be British".

"He kept an English flag on the balcony during the football World Cup in 2006," she said. "He was very proud his son was British. I was very happy to see my happy family in London."

Mrs Litvinenko said the family was given financial support by Mr Berezovsky after moving to the UK and following her husband's death, including paying for her son's school fees.

"(Mr Litvinenko and Mr Berezovsky) had a very special unique relationship," she said.

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."

Mrs Litvinenko, who met her husband on her birthday in June 1993 and married him a year later, also gave details of his career with the KGB including work with an anti-terror unit and a "quick response force".

She said her husband's view of Russia's involvement in the Chechen war changed as he felt that too many people were being killed indiscriminately, including women and children.

The inquiry was adjourned until tomorrow when Mrs Litvinenko is expected to complete her evidence.

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