White House slams Russia over killing of former spy

Getty Images

White House press secretary Josh Earnest blasted Russia's government on Thursday after a report found that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely approved the killing of a former spy.

The death of Alexander Litvinenko could have been "lifted right out of a spy novel" Earnest said during the daily briefing, calling it full of "salacious details."

ADVERTISEMENT
He said the case shows the "way in which the political environment that currently exists in Russia seems to also extend, at least in some occasions, beyond Russia's borders."

"Inside Russia," Earnest continued, "we see that critics and political opponents of the Russian government are often subject to threats, intimidation — and in some cases death."

Earnest's comments come after a U.K. inquiry found that Putin "probably approved" the 2006 murder of Litvinenko by Russian agents.

Litvinenko was a former KGB officer-turned critic of Putin. He had blamed the country's Federal Security Service for a series of apartment bombings in 1999 in Russia that left hundreds dead and also once accused Putin of being a pedophile.

The 328-page U.K. report said that Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium 210 at a London hotel. The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the report as politically motivated.

Earnest said that the report served as a reminder of the "serious concern" in the U.S. and other countries about human rights violations by Russia's government. 

"This willingness to flout basic conventions around human rights and free speech and the ability to speak out and make your political views known even if they are critical of sitting government is something that we have long been concerned about inside of Russia," Earnest said.

Earnest said concerns about the case are "understandable" and said the U.S. was closely reviewing the report.

He added that he "certainly wouldn't rule out any relevant future steps" by the U.S. toward Russia over the report.

More in News

Dallas police chief: Suspect 'wanted to kill white people'

Read more »