Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spy Vs Spy, or how the KGB are still among us

AOG, Madrid

Russia and the UK are at present involved in a diplomatic imbroglio concerning the fate of Andrei Lugovoy.

Britain has urged Russia to comply with its legal request for Andrei Lugovoy, a former Russian agent, to be extradited to the UK to be charged with the murder of former spy Alexander Litvinenko as soon as possible.

"Russia should comply with our legal request," Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said.

The spokesman stressed that Britain had important political and economic ties with Russia but said: "This doesn't in any way obviate the need for the international rule of law to be respected and we will not in any way shy away from trying to ensure that happens in a case such as this."

Nonetheless, Russia has declined to help. According to the Russian Prosecutor-General's office, Russia will not extradite Andrei Lugovoy to Britain on charges of murdering former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko last year.

"Under the constitution of the Russian Federation Russian citizens can not be handed over to foreign countries for prosecution and Lugovoy appears to be a Russian citizen" the source said.

Yuri Chaika, Russia's prosecutor general, said last December that any trial of a Russian ciizen must take place in Russia, and that arrests of Russians by British police officers would be "impossible" under the Russian constitution. Russia may also point to its demand for the extradition of the London-based exile Boris Berezovsky over the oligarch's calls to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

Nonetheless, the UK insists.

Britain told Russia today that it expected full cooperation after British prosecutors announced they would charge Lugovoy with the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

"This was a serious crime. We are seeking and expect full cooperation from the Russian authorities in bringing the perpetrator to face British justice. These points were made strongly to the Russian ambassador when he was called in to the Foreign Office today," Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said in a statement.

Unlikely as it may seem, the EU appears to be behind the UK on this one, an odd yet certainly welcomed event. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, present chair of the union's rotating presidency, criticised Putin over human rights - including the disruption of opposition demonstrations in an EU-Russia summit last week.

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