Tom Ball

The British government must not let Russia off the hook

On the day that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned, Arsenal were hosting CSKA Moscow for the second leg of a Champions League group stage match. The game ended a goalless draw with the home side left frustrated by a series of squandered chances.

Watching the game that evening from his box above the stands was Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire tycoon who had fled Russia six years earlier and been given political asylum in Britain. Two boxes over and former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi was also watching the game. As he would later claim, Lugovoi had travelled from Moscow the day before to watch his home team in action.

But Lugovoi also had business to attend to in London. In the few days he spent in the capital he met with a number of friends and associates, including his former boss Berezovsky, with whom he shared a bottle of wine at the oligarch’s offices in Mayfair.

More well known is his meeting with Litvinenko. A few hours before kick-off, Lugovoi met with Litvinenko – another former KGB officer – to discuss Lugovoi’s new security consultancy back in Russia. They were joined by a man named Dmitri Kovtun and another unnamed figure, who has not been seen or heard of since. The four men drank tea and discussed a possible business partnership, and afterwards Lugovoi went to Highbury, and Litvinenko went home, fell severely ill that evening and died three weeks later having ingested a massive dose of poisonous radioactive material.

The next time Arsenal hosted CSKA Moscow in a European football tournament was in April of this year, and again a former Russian agent, along with his daughter, was lying in a hospital bed, having been poisoned with a Russian-produced chemical weapon while out for the day in Salisbury.

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