British Charity Caught in the Middle of U.K.-Russia Diplomatic Row

British Charity Caught in the Middle of U.K.-Russia Diplomatic Row

Diplomatic tension between Russia and Great Britain that has been building over the past year is likely to continue in 2008. The tension began in May 2007, when Russia refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoy, the main suspect in the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (the successor to the KGB) and an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Litvinenko defected to Great Britain in 2000 and became a British citizen. He was poisoned with radioactive polonium at a London restaurant in November 2006 while attempting to investigate the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Russian security services steadfastly denied any connection to the murder and turned down Scotland Yard's request to hand over Lugovoy, invoking the Russian Constitution, which bars extradition of Russian nationals. Russian officials also said they would try Lugovoy at home if their British counterparts provided compelling evidence of his involvement in Litvinenko's murder.

To London's further dismay, Lugovoy gained immunity from criminal prosecution last month after being elected to the Russian parliament as a member of the nationalistic Liberal Democratic Party. Earlier this month, published an unconfirmed rumor that Lugovoy would be appointed Russia's representative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which meets in Strasbourg, France. At the time of the report, British Ambassador to Russia Anthony Brenton warned that Lugovoy would be arrested "if he steps a foot out of Russia."

The British Council Caught in the Crossfire

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