July 16, 2007

Britain Escalates Diplomatic Row Over Litvinenko Assassination

Britain has decided to escalate the diplomatic crisis over Russia's refusal to extradite the suspect in the Litvinenko assassination. The UK will expel four Russian diplomats in protest over the protection given to Andre Lugovoi:

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, today announced that four Russian diplomats will be expelled following Moscow's failure to hand over the man suspected of murdering Alexander Litvinenko.

The Russian foreign office has reacted by labelling the expulsion "immoral", and claims it will have serious consequences.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Miliband said that Russia's failure to cooperate with the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi was "extremely disappointing".

That may not be the end of the retribution, either. The new government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown says it will now review its relationship with Russia "on a range of issues," which comes close to hinting at a complete diplomatic break. Britain has also arranged for a series of extradition agreements which could snare Lugovoi if he attempts to travel outside of Russia.

Lugovoi's response was inadvertently hilarious. He objected to the public accusation of murder leveled by Millband. He told Britain's Channel 4 news that he would take Millbrand to court. Lugovoi is apparently unaware that he'd need to do that in Britain, and it would require his own appearance in a British court. If that's what it takes to get Lugovoi to the UK, Millbrand would probably have no complaint.

Russia will now probably expel British diplomats in response. The number expelled should give some indication of how far they want to pursue this. Britain is the largest investor in Russia, and Putin has enough problems with the economy without risking serious divestment. If they match the number that Britain has expelled, it will show that Putin does not want to escalate the tension between the two nations. If it's less than four, it may be seen as an offer of truce.

Britain may not accept it. It's become clear that they see the assassination as a tremendous insult to their sovereignty -- which it was -- and the British see it as directed by the Putin government. They want Lugovoi, and at this point, it appears that the UK has no problem hanging the entire diplomatic relationship on whether Putin extradites him.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (6)

Posted by docjim505 | July 16, 2007 4:47 PM

Maybe the Soviets... er, sorry, Russians... could nab some British sailors on the high seas to send a message. It seems to me that the British respond very, um, favorably to that sort of thing.

Posted by Christoph | July 16, 2007 7:32 PM

It's a funny situation where Britain has the guts to stand up to Russia, but not Iran.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 16, 2007 8:01 PM

What if?

What if the new prime minister, Brown, would like to clear the field of Tony Blair? Who is angling to head up the EU, a basket case unto itself. AND, the quartet?

Well, the quartet has American support. So there's no way for Brown to go after this "relic."

But by starting to push diplomats out of England, he has started to make putin's blood boil. How many places can putin go to spit back?

Litvenenko was a bad guy. True, he got a very macabre death. But wasn't Litvenenko handling the vials? Wasn't he putting himself at the same place where there was PO-210?

I think this whole thing is a bluff. Brown wants Blair to go home and retire. And, the rest is just a shell game.

Dubya, today, is also playing with the quartet. Setting up a situation where Condi can go after Dubya leaves office. Ya think the next president would call her home?

Or call the whole bluff?

I don't think the "situation" in gazoo, and it's sister ship the wes' bankers; is gonna have any solutions. Not with the kids continually being brow beaten into hatred and martyrdom. It certainly doesn't lend itself to "tourist attraction." So, exactly how do those folks have an economy? Terror threats? Look where it just got them in Lebanon.

Posted by Christoph | July 16, 2007 10:13 PM

"But wasn't Litvenenko handling the vials?"

What are you talking about?

Posted by Adjoran | July 17, 2007 1:07 AM

Well, IF, as suspected, Lugovoi was acting as a agent of Putin or his security apparatus, then Putin clearly cannot extradite him. He can't take the chance.

If the pressure gets turned up enough, though, look for Putin to agree in the end - BUT Lugovoi will either kill himself or suffer some unfortunate accident on the eve of the transfer.

Posted by SDN | July 17, 2007 4:53 AM

Cap'n (and docjim), what will probably happen is that Lugovoi will sue in a Russian court, win, and then Putin will expect the British government to collect the judgment. If or when Britain tells him to pound sand, Russia will seize British-owned assets. When challenged, Putin will claim a precedent based on something like the US hostages suing the Iranian government. What I remember from international business law (IANAL) says there's precedent in international law as well.