Ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died three months after drinking tea poisoned with a radioactive isotope, told British police that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally behind his killing, an inquiry heard on Tuesday.
British authorities believe Kremlin-critic Litvinenko was poisoned with green tea laced with polonium-210 at the Millennium Hotel in central London on November 1, 2006 during a meeting with two Russians, Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun.
At the start of a long-awaited inquiry which will delve into the murky world of British and Russian spies, exiled Russian oligarchs and the mafia, lawyer Robin Tam said secret British government evidence provided a prima facie case of Russian culpability.
Tam read a transcript of an interview Litvinenko gave detectives while on his death bed in which he said: "I have no doubt whatsoever this was done by the Russian secret service.
"Having knowledge of the system, I know that the order about such a killing of a citizen of another country on its territory, especially if it's something to with Great Britain, could have been given by only one person.
"That person is the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin."
The Kremlin has always denied involvement, as have Lugovoy and Kovtun, the main suspects, whom Russia has refused to extradite.