Telegraph: Russia accuses UK as Litvinenko row escalates
- Daily Telegraph
Russia accuses UK as Litvinenko row escalates
By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
Last Updated: 1:57pm BST 01/06/2007
Russia sought to stoke a growing diplomatic crisis with Britain this
morning, accusing London of using ex-KGB officer Alexander
Litvinenko's murder to undermine the Kremlin.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, claimed that the inquiry
into the defector's death had been unprofessional and warned that
relations between the two countries were being damaged.
"We are seeing attempts by the British side to turn the criminal
case into some sort of a political campaign," he told reporters in
The accusations mark a significant and alarming escalation in the
increasingly belligerent rhetoric being directed at Britain.
While senior officials have publicly expressed their fury at the
British media for its coverage of the case, the Kremlin has stopped
short of including the government itself in its attacks.
But after Britain demanded the extradition of another former KGB
agent, Andrei Lugovoi, to stand trial for Mr Litvinenko's murder,
the Kremlin appears to be shifting its strategy.
Yesterday Mr Lugovoi held a press conference in which he alleged
that MI6 had been involved in the murder. Kremlin critics suggested
that Russian government or intelligence officials had written Mr
Lugovoi's statement in an attempt to deflect suspicion being
directed at Moscow.
Mr Litvinenko, who died in November three weeks after being poisoned
with the radioactive substance Polonium-210, was an outspoken critic
of President Vladimir Putin and was regarded as a traitor by many in
the FSB, the KGB's main successor.
State controlled media has sought to pin the blame on Boris
Berezovsky, a once powerful tycoon living in London, suggesting that
he carried out the murder to besmirch the reputation of Mr Putin,
his great enemy.
But with British police apparently unwilling to swallow that theory,
analysts say the Kremlin is now trying to show that Britain has no
interest in solving the murder either because MI6 was involved or
because London is itself trying to smear Mr Putin.
Russian escalation is based on (correct) estimation of Blair's
appetite for a fight?