British prosecutors have accused a former KGB officer of murder in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, the one-time KGB officer turned Russian dissident who was killed with a radioactive poison in London last year.
Britain wants the suspect extradited from Russia — and the case is increasing diplomatic tension between the two countries. Moscow says Russian law makes such an extradition impossible.
Litvinenko died in Nov. 2006, after being poisoned by a radioactive isotope called polonium 210. He first took ill soon after drinking tea at a hotel in London with a former KGB bodyguard named Andrei Lugovoi.
On his deathbed, Litvinenko dictated a letter in which he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind his murder. At a news conference Tuesday morning, the director of Public Prosecutions in Britain, Sir Ken Macdonald, said the Crown Prosecution Services had decided to charge Lugovoi with the murder.
"I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by police is sufficient to charge Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning," Macdonald said. He added that he had also requested the extradition of Lugovoi.
Russia's ambassador to London was summoned to the Foreign Office Tuesday morning, when he was told in strong terms that full cooperation was expected in Lugovoi's case.
It's not clear that London will get it, though. Relations between Russia and Britain have, if not returned to the frostiness of the Cold War, at least descended into a cold peace, with disputes over a number of issues from human rights to British investments in Russian oil and gas fields.
Moscow is also angry with London for allowing Russian dissidents — notably oligarch Boris Berezovsky and former Chechen leader Ahmed Zakayev — to remain in the British capital.