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British Police Want Lugovoi Extradited

British prosecutors will request the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, who has been described as the chief suspect in the killing of former Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko, a British newspaper reported Friday.

The Guardian cited unidentified British officials as saying a request to extradite Lugovoi would be filed early next month.

Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Russia should give up Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun in exchange for the extradition of Chechen rebel envoy Akhmad Zakayev and tycoon Boris Berezovsky, both London residents who are wanted in Russia on charges including planning a violent coup.

"If they want us to give up Lugovoi, let them give us Berezovsky, Zakayev and others," Mitrofanov said during a State Duma session Friday, Interfax reported.

The Prosecutor General's Office is against an exchange.

"That is not going to happen," Maxim Filatenkov, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office, said Friday, citing a statement made before Christmas by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika in which he ruled out a swap.

Lugovoi and Kovtun have maintained their innocence, claiming they were framed.

The possibility of extradition does not worry Lugovoi. "If it comes to it, I am ready to defend my good name and reputation in any court," he told Interfax on Friday.

Litvinenko fell ill after meeting on Nov. 1 with Lugovoi, also a former security services agent, and Kovtun, a businessman. The three met at a bar at the Millennium Hotel in London.

It emerged Friday that Lugovoi and Kovtun could face charges in Russia.

"If there is enough evidence, then anything is possible," Filatenkov said, adding that the Criminal Code allows for Russian citizens who commit crimes abroad to face criminal charges back home.

"But we can not speculate under which article of the Criminal Code any suspect might be charged," Filatenkov added.

Meanwhile, a former Soviet intelligence official who lives in London said Lugovoi and Kovtun had been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.

"They will probably die of cancer within three or four years," Boris Volodarsky said by telephone from London on Friday.

Volodarsky confirmed earlier reports that Lugovoi and Kovtun had in all probability been nothing more than accomplices in the killing, "because they are not professionals," he said.

It was reported last week that British police had tracked down the person who poisoned Litvinenko. Known only as Vladislav, he was captured on cameras at Heathrow Airport as he arrived from Hamburg on Nov. 1.

From his hospital bed, Litvinenko recalled that it was Vladislav who had made him a cup of tea, it was reported.

The Guardian, citing unidentified officials, reported Friday that Scotland Yard would in the coming days submit its findings to the Crown Prosecution Service because it had sufficient evidence to prosecute the suspects.

A Scotland Yard spokesman would not comment on those reports, saying only that it was "inevitable" that a report would be submitted "sooner or later."

The Guardian's reports have drawn criticism from Russian officials, who say the newspaper is trying to lay the blame for Litvinenko's death at the door of the Kremlin.

"This is enflaming the situation to once again blame Russia," State Duma Deputy Nikolai Kovalyov said Friday, Interfax reported. "In the West they will soon be saying that we conjured up the Lugovoi and Litvinenko business just to demand the extradition of Berezovsky," Kovalyov added.

Also Friday, Britain's Sky News reported that British police had identified the teapot that contained the radioactive tea served to Litvinenko.

U.S. network ABC aired a similar report, citing an unidentified official.

Police officials and a spokesman at the hotel declined to comment on the reports, The Associated Press reported.

ABC News reported that the teapot, found at the Millennium Hotel, continued to be used for several weeks after the poisoning, and that its radiation readings were extremely high.

(The Moscow Times 29.i.07)

 
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