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Case Against Lugovoi Still Possible in Russia

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia might open a criminal case against Andrei Lugovoi, whose extradition Britain is seeking on charges of murdering Alexander Litvinenko, if London provides proof of his guilt.

"If we are convinced -- just like [Britain] -- that this is a serious case, then we have a wealth of precedents when we would open a criminal case of our own, hold court hearings and read out the verdict," Lavrov was quoted by national news agencies as saying.

Lavrov, making a stopover in China after a regional conference in the Philippines, said, "If the British side has the proof which convinced them 100 percent of Lugovoi's guilt, then we are ready to receive and study it."

Britain and Russia have each expelled four diplomats in a spat over the murder of Litvinenko, a former Russian security services agent who had become a British citizen.

London has demanded that Moscow extradite Lugovoi, also an ex-security services officer, so that he can be put on trial in Britain for Litvinenko's murder.

Russia has refused to do so, citing the Constitution, which forbids the extradition of citizens.

Moscow's chilly relations with London have been exacerbated by Britain's hosting of anti-Kremlin emigres wanted by Russia.

They include London-based tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who has accused Putin of being behind Litvinenko's murder. The Kremlin has called these allegations nonsense.

Britain has refused to extradite Berezovsky.

Asked whether Russia could, theoretically, exchange Lugovoi for Berezovsky, Lavrov replied: "Why on earth? As for Berezovsky, we sent to London all the materials which legally are in line with all extradition requirements.

"As for Lugovoi, we haven't seen such materials."

(The Moscow Times 06.viii.07)

 
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