Britain has announced it will prosecute former KGB spy Andrei Lugovoi (above left) for complicity in the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko (above right), and Russia has responded by refusing to extradite the accused. Can you imagine what Russia would say if an American former CIA agent entered Russia, killed a leading critic of the United States, and then Russia wanted to indict him but the U.S. would not extradite? Chris Bryant on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog calls for Britain to go all the way:
The news that Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, wants to charge the former FSB Russian agent Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning is set to ignite a major diplomatic row with Russia - and not before time.
Already the bonfire of Russian expostulation has begun, with Lugovoi protesting his innocence, secure in the knowledge that the amended Russian constitution forbids his extradition. He will also be comforted by the fact that under another new law Russian secret agents cannot be tried for actions they have committed abroad. A cynic might suggest that it looks very much as if Russian law has been designed expressly to allow secret agents to act as they wish without fear of ever facing trial.
Kremlin politicians will put up a splendid smokescreen. They will complain that several Russian oligarchs are exiled here, conveniently forgetting that British judges have consistently condemned Russian attempts at their extradition for being motivated by politics rather than justice and asserted that they could never face a fair trial in Russia.
It is vital that Britain stands firm, not just because a British resident has been murdered but because Russia has to learn that it cannot act with impunity.
We need to make our condemnation of Russia's appalling human rights record clear. We need to press Putin on the fact that 13 Russian journalists have been murdered in his time as president, without a single person being charged. We need to remind him that the journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed seven months ago - and still the police investigation has only been rudimentary. We need to complain vigorously about the Nashi harassment of the British ambassador in Moscow and the mayor of Moscow's banning of this weekend's gay pride march. We should follow up on Amnesty International's report last November which highlighted the systematic use of torture by the Russian police with 'beatings with fists, plastic bottles full of water, books, truncheons and poles" as well as "suffocation, the use of electroshocks and of organised rape".
Of course we should recognise the difficulties Russia has faced changing from a communist state to a democracy but the truth is that Putin's Russia seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Russia craves international respectability and we should make it clear that respectability has to be earned. So when Russia bullies her neighbours - Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia - we should make it clear that we do not believe these are the actions of a nation that truly respects democracy.
It is vital we get this relationship right. Russia has a critical role in many international issues, not least the Middle East, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more, every projection suggests that Russian energy reserves will become more important to us in Europe, not less. Yet there is so little confidence in the Russian Federation's present policy that foreign companies are reluctant to finance the major investments Russia needs if it is to keep the gas and the oil flowing.So Russia needs to know that Britain wants friendly relations, but not at any price. Respect for the rule of law and human rights must underpin Russia's future and we should not be afraid of ruffling Putin's feathers.
In another devasting blow to Russia, another humiliating example of the utter failure of the neo-Soviet Kremlin's foreign policy, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has added a film by a close associate of Litvinenko about his murder:
In a surprise move, the Cannes film festival on Wednesday announced it would screen a Russian documentary about the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. "Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case", which will be shown at special screenings Saturday, on the eve of the close of the 12-day filmfest, was shot by Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya. Nekrasov was close to Litvinenko, who died in London on November 23 last year. The documentary film-maker, who spent two years working on the movie, shot footage right up until Litvinenko's last days in hospital. The widow of the dead agent, Marina Litvinenko, is flying into Cannes for the special screenings, said the distributors of the film, Rezo. The almost two-hour long movie contains interviews with former KGB agents and is highly critical of the Russian authorities, a Rezo official told AFP. A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Litvinenko was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium 210 early last November in London and died within three weeks. He accused Moscow of being behind his poisoning in a letter released after his death. The ex-agent, who had been granted political asylum in Britain and formally became a British citizen last year, was administered large doses of polonium 210. Britain has asked Russia to extradite ex-KGB man Andrei Lugovoi to charge him with murder in the case. Cannes festival art director Thierry Fremaux said the documentary will be released officially late Saturday with screenings earlier for the media.