Russia's ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party has confirmed Andrei Lugovoi, a man wanted for murder in Britain, to be one its candidates for upcoming elections to the Russian Parliament. Lugovoi is a prime suspect in last year's London murder of former KGB officer and Kremlin critic, Alexander Litvinenko. VOA correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from Moscow.
Andrei Lugovoi was chosen Monday at a Liberal Democratic Party congress to be second on the organization's list of candidates in upcoming elections to the State Duma, or lower house of Parliament. The vote was 148 in his favor, and only two against. To become a lawmaker, Lugovoi's party would need to gain at least seven percent of the vote on Election Day, December 2.
At a Moscow news conference, the candidate said he is not concerned about the British demand for his extradition as prime suspect in the poison death of former KGB officer and Kremlin critic, Alexander Litvinenko.
"There are no criminal charges against me in Russia," says Lugovoi. "On the contrary, he adds, the Russian Federal Security Service in June opened a very active investigation into subversive British intelligence activities against governments worldwide."
Appearing with Lugovoi at the news conference was party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who launched into a lengthy anti-British tirade when he was asked a question by VOA.
"Get out of here," shouted Zhirinovsky. "You Brits are spilling blood the world over! The whole world will hate you! Your country creates more provocations than any other. Terror? You create terror!"
Zhirinovsky, among other things, also accused Britain of such offenses as not honoring his diplomatic passport, of murdering Litvinenko, harboring criminals, provoking the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the Chechen War, and intentionally dragging out World War II in order to allow the Nazis to kill millions of Soviet soldiers.
Zhirinovsky finished after nearly five minutes by accusing the entire British government and the Queen of England of criminality and threatening to throw this reporter out of Moscow.
Ties between Britain and Russia have deteriorated over London's insistence that Lugovoi be extradited to stand trial for murder. He is suspected of using radioactive polonium to poison Alexander Litvinenko in London last December. Russia says its constitution prohibits extradition of Russian citizens.
Andrei Lugovoi says that constitutional guarantee is sufficient and that he is not seeking office to get parliamentary immunity from extradition to Britain. But Zhirinovsky said lawmakers are not immune from justice, given proper legal procedures.
Zhirinovsky says if criminal elements run for office to gain parliamentary immunity, then the first presentation of charges by any prosecutor will result in an immediate vote to send those elements to court. He says no parliamentary mandate will save criminals.
Andrei Lugovoi said remarks on Monday regarding his interest in the Russian presidency were misinterpreted. He explained that any Russian citizen would like to be president, including himself, but that does not mean he has the qualifications for such high office. But Lugovoi said that Liberal Democratic Party leader Zhirinovsky is qualified.