Rubio calls Putin a ‘gangster’ for killing ex-spy

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Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE on Thursday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “gangster” after a British probe determined that Putin likely approved the 2006 poisoning of a former spy.

“Vladimir Putin is a gangster,” Rubio (R-Fla.), a Republican presidential contender, said during a discussion on national security in Manchester, N.H.

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“He has ordered the death of people,” Rubio added, referring not just to Alexander Litvinenko but also a series of explosions at apartment buildings in 1999. The attacks killed 300 people and opened the door to Russian aggression against Chechnya.

“There’s every reason to believe Putin was behind [that attack] to use it as a pretext to blame it on Chechens,” Rubio said at an event coordinated by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security.

The GOP candidate also pointed to Russian efforts in Ukraine, Georgia and the annexation of Crimea as further signs that Putin is unhinged.

Rubio has made similar allegations about Putin before.

But Thursday’s claim comes on the heels of a British government analysis that Putin “probably” approved the poisoning of Litvinenko.

Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who had fled to Britain, was deliberately poisoned by two men at his London hotel, the report concluded. The men were likely acting under the direction of the Kremlin’s FSB intelligence service, it added, with direct oversight from Putin.

There was “undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism” between Putin and Litvinenko, the inquiry added. Not long before his death, Litvinenko publicly accused Putin of being a pedophile.