Russia Balks at Extradition for Litvinenko Suspect

Russia has said there is no question of extraditing the man accused of poisoning the ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London. This week the suspect, another former KGB officer named Andrei Lugovoi, said that British intelligence was behind the murder.

Britain says Litvinenko's murder is an extraordinarily grave crime that was committed in Britain against a British citizen — and so the case must be tried in Britain. But Moscow has poured cold water on that idea.

Friday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said London is using the Litvinenko case as part of a political campaign that is damaging its relations with Russia.

Critics say the stark dispute over the Litvinenko case highlights the differences between Russia and the West. Litvinenko himself painted a grim picture of his native country, beginning — publicly, at least — in an extraordinary 1998 videotape that came to light last month.

In the video, Litvinenko and two colleagues testify to refusing to carry out orders from their superiors to murder and kidnap wealthy Russians. An agitated, youthful Litvinenko says his bosses were acting on their own for personal profit, and that he understood he was risking his life by speaking out against them.

"I've never feared for my life. But I do fear for the lives of my wife and child," Litvinenko said in Russian. "I also know that even if they kill me, my wife and child, they won't stop. If these people aren't stopped now, this lawlessness will swallow the entire country. Things will be worse than they were under Stalin."

Litvinenko's fellow officers said the video was a kind of insurance, to be played only if something were to happen to them. It was recorded by former television news anchor Sergei Dorenko, who also appears in it.

Litvinenko, who died of radioactive polonium in London last November, was an outspoken Kremlin critic who on his deathbed blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering his poisoning. The Russian authorities strenuously deny the charge.

Britain is charging former Russian security service officer Andrei Lugovoi with killing Litvinenko. But when Lugovoi appeared in front of reporters this week to dismiss the charge, he launched his own attack.

Lugovoi accused Litvinenko of being a British spy who had tried to recruit him to find compromising information about Putin. He said the case has become part of a Western media war against both him and Russia.

"They created a story of a Russian James Bond who snuck into a nuclear facility and cold-bloodedly poisoned his friend," Lugovoi said in Russian. "It was done for the British authorities to save face and compromise Russia."

Whoever killed Litvinenko, the latest accusations from Lugovoi are contributing to a growing split between Russia and the West. Litvinenko's supporters say that may have been exactly what those who ordered his murder wanted to bring about.

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