Russia Expels British Diplomats
A Russia Today TV news clip about the Alexander Litvinenko case
Last month the UK Crown Prosecution service charged Russian businessman and former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy in the polonium poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko (you can watch Lugovoy's press conference responding to these charges here). London is demanding that Lugovoy be extradited to face a murder charge in Great Britain. However, the Russian government argues that Russia's constitution prohibits sending Russian citizens to face trial abroad.
Russia Today TV interviews British and Russian executives in Russia about potential fallout from the diplomatic row
In addition to the constitutional argument, the Russian government argues that it is under no obligation to extradite Lugovoy because Britain has consistently refused to extradite fugitives from justice in Russia., The British government has repeatedly denied Russian prosecutors requests to extradite the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky to face charges of fraud and official corruption. Mr. Lugovoy once worked for Berezovsky providing security for ORT Channel 1 when the oligarch owned the television network in the late 1990s.
Last week Mr. Berezovsky was indicted in Brazil for laundering illicit cash through UK Times newspaper, Russia's Ambassador to Great Britain Yuri Fedotov dismissed the report as just more drama from Berezovsky. "I have nothing that could confirm it but on the other side it does not surprise me because Mr. Berezovsky takes each and every opportunity - and if there is no opportunity, takes invented opportunity - to expose himself, to make a public figure."
In the last fifteen years there have been over 500 bombings and contract killings related to Avtovaz, the car maker Berezovsky nearly ran into the ground during the 1990s. So it would not be a surprise to find out that Berezovsky still had many enemies among his former colleagues in Russia. Nonetheless, As long as relations between Great Britain and Russia remain strained, Berezovsky is much less likely to ever be deported to face trial in his homeland.
Besides granting Berezovsky political asylum, the Russian government's other grievance against the UK is the British refusal to extradite Ahkmed Zakayev, whom Moscow accuses of sponsoring Chechen terrorists. Mr. Zakayev has repeatedly denied any involvement in terrorism, but Russian prosecutors insist that they can link him directly to the late Shamil Basayev, the mastermind behind the Beslan school massacre.
Needless to say, with neither side budging, this diplomatic impasse is likely to continue for some time.