The British Director for Public Prosecutions today announced that he intended to charge Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, and called for him to be extradited from Russia:
I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning.
“I have further concluded that a prosecution of this case would clearly be in the public interest.
“In those circumstances, I have instructed CPS lawyers to take immediate steps to seek the early extradition of Andrey Lugovoy from Russia to the United Kingdom, so that he may be charged with murder – and be brought swiftly before a court in London to be prosecuted for this extraordinarily grave crime.”
The problem with this, of course, is that Russian law specifically prohibits extradition, and the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office seems distinctly unimpressed by today’s statement:
“Under the Russian Constitution, Russian citizens cannot be extradited to be tried abroad. Lugovoi is a Russian citizen.”
As far as I can see, the only way in which Lugovoi is going to stand trial for Litvinenko’s murder in the United Kingdom is if he voluntarily gives himself up. And, realistically, the only way that is going to happen is with the Russian government’s support.
But Russia is almost certain to link any movement on Lugovoi to a renewed request for the extradition of Boris Berezovsky, the ‘rogue’ billionaire living in London who is, by his own admission, plotting a “coup” against the current Russian government.
The British courts have already rejected one Russian request for Berezovksy’s extradition, though, and the chances of that decision being reversed are slim.
So, instead of a court case, we instead face the prospect of an increasingly bitter war of words between the British and Russian governments.