Kremlin Issues Warning After Expulsions

The Russian deputy foreign minister on Tuesday vowed a "targeted and appropriate" response to Britain's decision to expel four Russian diplomats in a tit-for-tat battle over the murder investigation of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko did not say what the Russian response would be, but he hinted that Moscow could reduce its cooperation in security or anti-terror investigations.

"The line London has taken will complicate, if not make impossible, the cooperation of law enforcement organization on questions that touch the security interests of millions of Britons and Russians," he said.

But he said Moscow would take care that tourists, business people and other "everyday citizens" with ties to Britain would not be affected.

Britain decided to expel the diplomats and place restrictions on visas for Russian officials earlier this week in response to the Kremlin's refusal to hand over Andrei Lugovoi for prosecution the November killing of Litvinenko in London.

Litvinenko died Nov. 23 in a London hospital after ingesting radioactive polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind his killing. The ex-security agent said he first felt ill after meeting Lugovoi and business partner Dmitry Kovtun at London's Millennium Hotel.

Traces of polonium-210 were found at around a dozen other sites in London, including three hotels, a stadium, two planes and an office building. In Britain, 700 people were tested for polonium contamination and 670 were tested abroad — including Lugovoi. All were eventually released.

Lugovoi, also a former KGB officer, gave a television interview Tuesday in which he said Britain had provoked the diplomatic conflict.

"The British officials have backed themselves into a corner by proposing to extradite me, although it was obviously prohibited by the (Russian) Constitution," he said on Russia Today, an English-language satellite channel under Kremlin control.

Grushko said Russia's constitution forbids Lugovoi's extradition, and he urged other European nations not to side with the British.

He also said that Moscow has sought the extradition of 21 people for prosecution in Russia, including Boris Berezovsky - a vocal Putin opponent and associate of Litvinenko - and the Chechen rebel figure Akhmed Zakayev, both of whom have refugee status in Britain.

"Not one has been handed over," Grushko said.

Izvestia, a daily newspaper loyal to the Kremlin, announced in a front-page headline that "the new British prime minister has declared a diplomatic and visa war on Russia."

From The Associated Press reports

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