The widow of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko who died after he fled to Britain said yesterday that the British government should respond to the poisoning of another ex-spy by sanctioning individuals suspected of committing crimes abroad.
Marina Litvinenko, whose husband died in London after drinking tea containing radioactive material, said that following the recent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the UK should join other countries in targeting individuals named in the US Magnitsky Act for sanctions.
The act lets Washington sanction human rights violators. It was passed 2012 by the US Congress in response to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison after exposing a tax fraud scheme involving Russian officials.
Litvinenko's husband, Alexander Litvinenko died in November 2006, three weeks after drinking the poisoned tea. A UK public inquiry concluded in 2016 he'd been killed by Russia's security service. Britain is a popular destination for wealthy Russians, including some with close Kremlin ties, as well as Russians feeling threatened at home.
"When you allow these people to use your country for holiday, for buying property, to raise their children, it means you allow them to do everything," Marina Litvinenko told journalists.
The attack on Skripal would increase anxiety among Russian exiles in Britain, "particularly for people who ask for political asylum," if the government fails to take tougher action, she said.
Calls have grown in Britain for the government to draw up its own "Magnitsky List" following the attack in Salisbury, England. Skripal and his daughter were found comatose on a public bench on March 4. They remain in critical condition after suspected poisoning with a nerve agent.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday it was "highly likely" Russia was responsible for the attack. The Kremlin has denied involvement.
"They do deny all time, even (when there are) a lot of facts," said Litvinenko, noting that Russia rejected having a role in her husband's death.
Litvinenko said the latest poisoning called into question a written promise she said she received in 2012 from Theresa May, who was Britain's home secretary at the time, to "take every step to protect the UK and its people from such a crime ever being repeated again."
"When I received one week ago all this news from Salisbury, from (the) UK, I realised nothing was done," Litvinenko said.