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Russia to Stop Counter-Terrorism Cooperation with Britain


Russia has escalated its diplomatic dispute with Britain, expelling four British diplomats and also suspending bilateral cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has details from Moscow.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin says four British diplomats must leave Russia within 10 days. Moscow will also stop issuing visas to British government officials. These are in-kind reactions to London's expulsion Monday of four Russian diplomats.

The Kremlin response, however, takes the dispute a step further.

The Russian official says that to his country's regret, measures announced by London on July 16 make it impossible for Russia to cooperate with Britain in the struggle against terrorism.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the expulsion of the four British diplomats "completely unjustified."

British-Russian ties have deteriorated since the Kremlin refused to extradite Alexander Lugovoi, a former KGB intelligence officer accused of murdering Kremlin-critic Alexander Litvinenko last year in London. Litvinenko was also an ex-KGB officer.

Meanwhile, the international community is calling for a resolution to the crisis.

In Berlin, the German Foreign Ministry announced that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will meet Friday with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for brief but intensive talks about the situation.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Sky News Television that Britain has nothing to gain by abandoning Russia. Secretary Rice added that Russia should cooperate fully with Britain and extradite Lugovoi to face trial on murder charges in Britain.

Portugal, in its capacity as current head of the European Union's rotating presidency, expressed disappointment with Moscow's failure to cooperate with British authorities.

Russian officials responded to the Portuguese statement with surprise, saying selective application of European solidarity could harm relations between Russia and the European Union.

Kremlin officials say their country's constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens.

Both sides have said they do not want worsening diplomatic relations to affect tourism, exchange programs or business. But political observer Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a Moscow-based monthly magazine, says business will inevitably suffer.

Lukyanov says those who would come to Russia to participate in big projects will not do so at the present time. He says he believes British companies will not get permission to come.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kamynin said Russia hopes common sense will prevail and Russian-British relations will be relieved of, as he put it, artificial burdens.