British public shrugs off Litvinenko inquiry conclusions

Alexander Litvinenko © Wikipedia
Britons appear to have shrugged off news about the alleged assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko by Russian agents with notable indifference, a new poll indicates.

A public inquiry into the death of Litvinenko, who died from radioactive poisoning in 2006, accused senior Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin of “probably” having motives to sanction the murder.

The former Russian security officer’s death in London after being poisoned with rare radioactive isotope Polonium-210 sparked a major crisis in British-Russian relations, as many public figures in the West alleged the Russian government was involved.

However the British public appears to be relatively undisturbed by the report’s findings, according to a poll by YouGov, which asked whether the incident was “an outrage” that deserved action against the Russian government or “one of the facts of international espionage” that required no response.

Forty-one percent of those polled said the assassination was simply a fact of life, while just 24 agreed it was an “outrage.” Some 14 percent of the public responded “neither” and 21 percent said they did not know.

The poll suggests public opinion is at odds with the government’s response.

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced the freezing of assets belonging to Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun – both of whom London treated as key suspects.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the report, blaming London for politicizing the “purely criminal” case of Litvinenko’s death.

The inquiry was “neither transparent nor public” and resembles a “shadow play” because it was “conducted mostly behind doors, with classified documents and unnamed witnesses contributing to the result,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marina Zakharova told journalists.

YouGov polled 2,677 UK adults on January 22, a day after the inquiry’s findings were published.

The full wording of the options put to respondents read: “This kind of thing is one of the facts of international espionage and there is no need to treat this event any differently,” and, “This is an outrage and the British government should take serious action against the Russian government.”