It looks like the British authorities have made their decision as to who will be charged in the poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. It is, as I reporteded here, Litvinenko's supposed friend and associate, Andrei Lugovoi who Litvinenko met with on multiple occasions around the date of the actual poisoning, which was carried out using a deadly form of the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 in a pot of tea.
From the Epoch Times UK:
Prosecutors are demanding that a former KGB agent be extradited from Russia to stand trial for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
The move, which has the full support of Downing Street, is likely to ratchet-up already strained diplomatic tensions between Britain and Russia.
Director of UK Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald said: "I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning.
"I have further concluded that a prosecution of this case would clearly be in the public interest."
There's just one problem with that. Lugovoi has left London to return to Moscow and start his own security firm. And the Kremlin refuses to cooperate with the investigation.
The Russian ambassador was called into the Foreign Office on Tuesday morning, in the words of a Downing Street official, to "underline our view that Russia should comply with that legal request"
"Murder is murder," said the Prime Minister's spokesman, responding to questions about the diplomatic implications of the request by stressing the need for the international rule of law to be respected.
Russia has no formal extradition treaty specifically with the UK. The spokesman for the Prime Minister said the UK's extradition relations with Russia were based on the 2001 European Convention on Extradition and the 1957 Council of Europe convention
A spokeswoman for the Russian prosecutor's office said: "In accordance with Russian law, citizens of Russia cannot be turned over to foreign states."
She said that Lugovoi could be tried in Russia—with the evidence provided by the UK prosecution service.
Okay, I guess. Except that given the Russian media's silence and the lack of prosecution in the former Soviet Union with regards to the Putin government's nasty habit of murdering its critics, I would say that Andrei Lugovoi's chances of getting a fair trial in Moscow rank only slightly higher than a detainee's chances of getting a fair trial at Guantanamo. Yes, there is a government on this planet that's more obstructionist, obfuscatory, mulish, authoritarian, secretive, and criminal than the Bush regime. But of course, if our own President "I'm The Commander Guy" thought he could get away with half of what Putin's government does on a daily basis, he'd already have done it all twice over.
Litvinenko's widow Marina says she's glad of the prosecution, and grateful to British authorities for handling the grisly case quickly and decisively. (Again, here's proof that the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security had nothing to do with investigating this crime. It has actually been solved, conclusively ruling out the involvement of US law enforcement.)
LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) – The widow of poisoned former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko met Russia's ambassador in London on Tuesday and got no response to calls for the man charged with her husband's murder to be extradited.
Marina Litvinenko met the ambassador after Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said it would demand the extradition of Andrei Lugovoy, another former Russian agent, for the murder by deliberate radiation poisoning of Litvinenko, who suffered a slow death in a London hospital last year. "It was not an easy meeting for him because I asked him his opinion about the extradition of Mr Lugovoy from Russia," she told British television. "He did not answer me, because it's not his decision." Russian judicial sources have ruled out handing over Lugovoy. Litvinenko's widow said she would continue to fight for justice for herself and her son. She said she did not believe responsibility for her husband's murder lay with one person.
But that brings us back to the essential question underlying this whole story. Why? Why was the Kremlin purportedly so eager to see Litvinenko dead? If it was, in fact, the Kremlin. I did, at one point, posit that this may have been the work of yet another party anxious to create mistrust and international hostility toward the Putin regime.
Here are two (and a half) theories courtesy of The Guardian UK:
The Kremlin ordered his murder. This, the most obvious explanation, was put by Litvinenko's associates after his death, though it is strenuously denied by the Kremlin.
By this theory Mr Lugovoi, a former KGB agent, was hired to murder Litvinenko. The motive was revenge – with Litvenenko regarded as a traitor by his former colleagues in Russia's powerful federal security services.
The method chosen was poison – a favourite KGB tactic perfected during the cold war. In this case, however, it is not clear whether Mr Lugovoi realised that polonium-210 would leave behind a radioactive trail, or whether he thought that he had hit upon the perfect murder.
Occam and critics of Putin would like this to be the truth, since it is the simplest explanation. But there is a competing theory:
Boris Berezovsky had Litvinenko killed to discredit Mr Putin. This is the most common view in Russia. It is vehemently denied by Mr Berezovsky, but is assiduously repeated on state-run TV stations and media.
By this theory, Mr Berezovsky, the Kremlin's public enemy number one, had Litvinenko killed as part of a negative PR operation to embarrass and humiliate Russia. Mr Berezovsky has lived in exile in Britain since 2002, when he fell out with Mr Putin. He has made no secret of his desire to overthrow the Russian regime, telling the Guardian in April, admittedly well after the death of his friend Litvinenko in November, he was plotting a violent revolution against the state. Supporters of this theory say Mr Berezovksy had far more to gain from the murder than did Mr Putin.
I know it sounds a little crazy, but I really think this is where we need to go with our thinking about this case. Something about the sloppiness of the crime just bothers me. There were multiple attempts to poison Litvinenko, some of which contaminated innocent bystanders. (Dr. Hillhouse at The Spy Who Billed Me has more on this.) It seems clear to me that someone was sending a message to someone here, otherwise the crime would have been committed in the dark, behind closed doors, in some less public, less spectacular way.
But finally, there is one more theory:
The murder of Litvinenko was a non-state level operation by Mr Lugovoi for reasons not clear – he took it upon himself, out of either patriotic or criminal motives. Almost certainly the operation was bungled, so the theory goes, with Mr Lugovoi unaware suspicion would fall immediately on him.
He and fellow businessman Dmitry Kovtun both claim Litvinenko poisoned them, and they are the true targets.
And that's just kind of weird. But at least, Lugovoi isn't just shrugging and grinning sheepishly while he claims not to recall everything shy of his own name like our own AG Gone-zales. But that's another post for another night.
Kids, questions? Answers? Anybody care for a mint?
I'll be very interested to see how this plays out in diplomatic relations between Russia and the UK. This is the most openly hostile set of conditions we have seen since the "end" of the "Cold War". The Death of Communism looks like another trademark GOP stop-gap project where once the various corporations and oligarchs take their cut, it's more like just The Tired Feeling of Communism, followed by The Renaissance of Russian Totalitarianism (i.e., You Got a Problem With That, Comrade?).
This story is so complicated as to be downright Byzantine, but I will be following it as closely as I can, and keeping you guys abreast of what I find out.