Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev confirmed:
We asked [the UK authorities] to question more than 100 witnesses and conduct dozens of searches. In our request, we formulated questions that we would like to have answered, he told the official Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper.
We want these investigative efforts to proceed in the presence of our detectives. We hope that our UK colleagues will respond to our request as promptly as we did recently.
There has been no official reaction from the British authorities yet – in fact, they claim they haven’t had an official request yet. So far, the only official reaction has been the rather bland statement:
“We would consider any request for assistance in consultation with the police”
The British press, however, lead by the Times, suspect that Russia is attempting to hinder the British investigation:
The Kremlin has unleashed a bureaucratic blitz on Scotland Yard as part of Russias investigation into the murder of the former spy Alexander Litvinenko.
The scale of the Russian request has prompted suspicions that Moscow is seeking to stall the investigation by overwhelming Scotland Yard with largely irrelevant demands.
I must confess, 100 interviews seems somewhat extreme, especially given that British police will have already interviewed most of the people on the Russian list.
However I still think the British government should accept this request.
Thinking in terms of realpolitik, the chances of the person who actually ordered this murder ever being extradited from Russia are extremely slim, so the Russian request won’t actually delay anything with regard to the resolution of this case.
What the Russia is actually trying to do is embarrass the UK – they expect the British to turn around and reject their request or, at the very least, only agree to a few interviews. If this happens, they will think they have a water-tight public relations case for rejecting any future requests for significant co-operation, and for rejecting any extradition requests.
The solution is simple – the UK should let the Russians in, with full access, and sieze this chance to take the moral highground before requesting any extraditions.