The case of Lugovoi turned into diplomatic war
London is extremely disappointed with Russia's refusal to hand over Andrei Lugovoi - whom British justice authorities consider to be the chief suspect in the murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko last November.
The criminal case is officially transported on political level. The British Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined the verbal wrangle between the Moscow and the London. In response of Russia’s unavailability to collaboration the Great Britain can reduce relations with the Moscow in different fields. The next week the chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will introduce in the Parliament a report on possible variants of the further activities. According to the Times, the Britain can cease co-operation with Russia on several fronts, including education, social affairs, trade and counter-terrorism information.
The case may result in diplomatic crisis. The Telegraph and Financial Times reported Tuesday that the Great Britain is poised to expel Russian diplomats for the first time in a decade. According to the newspapers, the next week the Parliament may take a decision on expulsion of a small team of diplomatic services of middle and low rank. The both newspapers suppose that the Kremlin will take analogous measures in response.
The Russia refused to hand over Lugovoi to Britain because of the Article 61 of the Russian Constitution that bans the extradition of its citizens. At the same time both the General Prosecutor and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say that Lugovoi can face trial in Russia if the London affords facts and proofs of his guilt. But the Britain rejected the Russian offer on the grounds that there was no guarantee that the process would be impartial and fair.
Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned against turning Russian-British relations into a hostage to the problem.
But the Britain seems to be very intense, that is probably explained by the fact that the new premier minister Gordon Brown is eager for showing his efficiency. So, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs is adamant that Russia just doesn’t want to hand over Lugovoi. On Kommersant’s question “How it can be done without violation of the Constitution” they response: “That’s problem of the Russian government”. A representative of the Crown Prosecutor Service reminded about priority of the international right over the national one and told that since both Russia and Britain are members of the European Convention on Extradition, 1957, they must observe it. At the same time Russian experts bind the problem of Lugovoi’s extradition with problem of London political emigres; Russia demanded extradition of Ahmed Zakaev and Boris Berezovsky just appealing this Convention but then the London didn’t express good will.
It should be mentioned that in 2002 Russia violated Article 61 of the Constitution and handed over a Russian national Murad Garabaev to Turkmenistan. Later it took great efforts to get him of torture chambers and then Russia was obliged by the Strasburg Court to pay him 20 thousand EURO.