» Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Litvinenko Case/Russian relations

Asked if the Government was going to extradite Andrei Lugovoi from Russia, the PMOS replied that there was a legal process underway. The Russian Ambassador had had a meeting this morning with the Permanent Under Secretary Peter Ricketts at the Foreign Office to underline our view that Russia should comply with that legal request. Nobody should be in any doubt about the seriousness of this case, but as in any case, the way to deal with it was to let the legal process take its course.

Asked for information about the meeting, the PMOS said that in order for diplomatic exchanges to remain diplomatic, they had to also remain confidential.

Asked if the Ambassador’s response was not as the Government wished, would it then be taken up to Prime Ministerial level, the PMOS said that the question was a hypothetical one. We had to deal with the legal process first of all, and see whether Russia complied with it. The PMOS stressed again the seriousness with which we regarded this case.

Asked if by seriousness, the PMOS meant the diplomatic seriousness, the PMOS said that murder was murder. Therefore, it was very serious. The nature of the murder was also very serious, given the health risks it exposed to others.

Put that Margaret Beckett had reportedly said at COBRA that if Russia did not co-operate, it could lead to serious implications for our relationship with Russia, and was that recognised, the PMOS said that not only did he not comment on COBRA meetings, but also, we had to take the legal process one step at a time.

Asked what the Government’s relationship with Russia was like at the moment, the PMOS said that we obviously had political and economic connections with Russia, and Russia clearly played an important role in international affairs. There were major issues such as Iran, Kosovo, climate change where we had to have, given the nature of the world today, serious dialogue with Russia. However, what that did not in any way obviate was the need for the international rule of law to be respected, and we would not in any way shy away from trying to ensure that that happened in a case such as this. That was the basis on which we would proceed.

Asked if this would have implications with regards to the energy supply from Russia, the PMOS replied that again, there were international obligations which any international contract imposed on both sides. It was in everybody’s interest that both parties to those obligations fulfilled them. That was the basis on which international investment and confidence was based, as everybody was aware.

Asked if there had been any direct contact between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary with their Russian counterparts, the PMOS said that he was not going to get into the processology of the case. There was a legal process going on which should be allowed to take its course.

Asked if there was a formal legal arrangement with Russian regarding extradition, the PMOS said that the basis of the UK’s extradition relations with Russia was that the European Convention on Extradition and the Council of Europe convention concluded in 1957. Russia signed up to this in 2001. Extradition requests from Russia were dealt with under part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003.

Put that Russia had said that it did not extradite Russian citizens, and what would be the next step, the PMOS said that we now had a new development which was the Crown Prosecution Service’s statement this morning, and we had to hear Russia’s formal response to that. The PMOS said that people should not respond to odd comments from various places, as we needed that formal response.

Asked if that would come from Russia or from the Ambassador, the PMOS replied that what the Ambassador was hearing was our view.

Asked how would this affect Russia’s effort to extradite its citizens from the UK if we did not agree, the PMOS replied that again, there were legal processes that had to be followed.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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