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Britain Pushes for Prosecution in Murder Case of Former Russian Spy


British prosecutors say former Russian spy Andrei Lugovoi should be charged with the murder of one-time Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London after being poisoned last year. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from the British capital.

Based upon files compiled by Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism department, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, or CPS, has recommended that a former Russian intelligence officer should face trial in the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko was also a former member of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and a strong critic of President Vladimir Putin. He was believed to have been poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 on November 1. He died in a London hospital three weeks later.

Chief prosecutor Ken MacDonald says, after consultation with the government's Attorney General, he has decided to formally ask for a trial process to move forward.

"I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning," he said. "I have further concluded that the prosecution of this case would clearly be in the public interest."

Since no extradition treaty exists between London and Moscow, it is hard to see how such a trial will ever take place. Regardless, MacDonald has instructed his team to proceed.

"I have instructed CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] lawyers to take immediate steps to seek the early extradition of Andrei Lugovoi from Russia to the United Kingdom so that he may be charged here with murder and brought swiftly before a court in London to be prosecuted for this extraordinarily grave crime," said MacDonald.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has told the Russian ambassador to London that she expects full compliance.

But a source at the Russian Prosecutor General's office in Moscow says it would be against the Russian constitution to extradite a citizen to a foreign state and so Andrei Lugovoi will not be handed over.

For his part, Lugovoi has maintained he is innocent and has accused the British media of demonizing him.