Relations between Britain and Russia were deteriorating on Monday as the British government announced the expulsion of four Russian diplomats from their London embassy over Moscow's refusal to extradite murder suspect Andrej Lugovoi.
Russia heavily criticized the move, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin warning that the “provocative acts will not go unanswered, and will have serious consequences for British-Russian relations.” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the expulsion was the “appropriate response” to Russia's lack of cooperation. But Kamynin countered: “We would like to recall that British authorities have also recently refused to hand over citizens accused of crimes in other countries,” adding that London's position was “amoral.”
Members of the Russian State Duma - the Lower House of Parliament - had earlier warned that Russia had to react to London's action with adequate and symmetrical counter measures. The committee chair for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Andrej Kokoshin, called the decision a “mistake,” which would not be left without a response. The expulsion neither had a legal basis nor was it politically sound, he said. “Britain will suffer more than Russia,” Kokoshin was quoted as saying by Interfax. Especially in economic terms Britain would suffer considerable losses, he added. Legislator Mikhail Grishankov demanded the expulsion of British diplomats from Russia.
The British Embassy in Moscow said: “Any kind of Russian response to the British measures would be highly unfounded.” The majority of Russians would not be affected by the changed visa regulations, Interfax quoted an embassy spokesman as saying. The system for the issuing of visas would only change for those whose applications were made by the Russian government.
Britain had earlier announced it would expel four Russian diplomats from Russia's embassy in London after Moscow refused to extradite former KGB officer Lugovoi to face trial in Britain for the murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006. Negotiations over visa relaxations for Russian citizens would also be suspended, Miliband said, adding that a “number of issues” regarding cooperation with Russia would need to be reconsidered.
Britain intended to discuss with other European Union countries whether the issue would affect future dialogue between Russia and the EU, he said. Russia had earlier refused to extradite suspect Andrej Lugovoi to face trial in Britain. According to the British public prosecutor, ex-KGB officer Lugovoi is said to have killed former Russian agent Litvinenko by poisoning him with radioactive Polonium 210 in November 2006. Lugovoi denies the claim. Under the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, Russia has the right to refuse the extradition of a citizen. However, Miliband called the refusal “extremely disappointing.”
According to the convention, Britain can request the investigation to be taken on by the Russian authorities. However, Sir Ken Macdonald, Britain's director of public prosecutions, has rejected an offer from the Kremlin to try Lugovoi in Russia.
The Russian Natural Resources Minister said Tuesday his ministry would keep investment agreements with British companies intact despite recent actions by the British authorities. “I do not think it will be necessary to impose any sanctions that could affect the investment climate, because it is very expensive, in Britain also,” Yury Trutnev said. Oil companies Imperial Energy, British Petroleum and Shell are amongst Russia' largest British partners. (monstersandcritics.com, rian.ru)