May 22, 2007

Britain Requests Extradition On Litvinenko Assassination

Britain has escalated its standoff with Russia over the assassination of former KGB agent Aleksander Litvinenko. Prosecutors filed murder charges against Andrei Lugovoi and demanded his extradition this morning:

British prosecutors on Tuesday requested the extradition of former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi to face a charge of murder in the poisoning death of former operative Alexander Litvinenko, officials said Tuesday.

Lugovoi met Litvinenko at a London hotel only hours before Litvinenko became ill with polonium-210 poisoning. He has repeatedly denied any involvement in the case during interviews with the police and media.

The Interfax news agency on Tuesday cited the Russian prosecutor-general's office as saying it will not turn over Lugovoi to British authorities.

The politically charged case has driven relations between London and Moscow to post-Cold War lows. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett summoned the Russian ambassador and Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said the government expected full cooperation.

This will certainly mean more trouble between Vladimir Putin and the rest of Europe. Indicting Lugovoi amounts to an indictment of Putin himself. The radioactive isotope used in the assassination makes a strong case for government involvement, as it would take high-level access to get enough together for the massive dose given Litvinenko.

This comes as a reminder of Russia's increasingly strange behavior. Earlier this month, they almost broke off diplomatic relations with Estonia over a statue. Putin has cut off oil supplies to friend (Belarus) and foe (Ukraine) alike, all while making their energy exports unreliable for their major trading partners in Europe. Along with this earlier assassination of a Putin critic, it shows Russia to be almost a rogue state, run by a paranoid authoritarian.

Russia will not extradite Lugovoi. They have made that clear over the last few months. That puts the EU on the spot. Britain will insist on the extradition and will likely demand that the EU help facilitate it, or to collectively punish Russia economically for their refusal. If the EU does not respond, Britain may well lose enthusiasm for the collective just as the EU wants them to join the common currency. If they do support Britain, they will probably lose their oil imports once again, driving up costs in the EU economy.

Pandering to Putin would be the worst possible mistake for the EU. Expect them to make that choice.


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Comments (3)

Posted by Veeshir | May 22, 2007 8:07 AM

The horrible criminal, Lugovoi, has unfortunately been killed while escaping. We are very sorry we cannot extradite him.
The KG..... errr, The Kremlin

Posted by rbj | May 22, 2007 8:51 AM

"Along with this earlier assassination of a Putin critic, it shows Russia to be almost a rogue state, run by a paranoid authoritarian."

We are pleased to present to you the new, Stalin 2.0 model. The most prominent new features include lip service about "democracy" and "free enterprise"*

*(actual democracy and free enterprise are not included)

Posted by Sandy P | May 22, 2007 11:51 AM

Keep following Rantburg for the latest .