Ex-KGB fugitive urges London to give up on his extradition

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The ex-KGB agent wanted over the murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko on Wednesday warned Britain its efforts to seek his extradition could only further harm frayed ties with Russia.

Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the radioactive poisoning of Litvinenko in 2006, said he was confident Russia would stand with him in rejecting Britain's calls for him to go on trial in London.

The defiant comments came as British Foreign Secretary William Hague kicked off a rare visit to Moscow to help thaw chilly British-Russian ties that have plunged to their lowest ebb in recent years.

"The more the British dig in their heels over this problem, the worse it will be for our relations with them," Lugovoi told the Interfax news agency.

"I am very happy that our state has the same position."

Russia has consistently dismissed Britain's calls for the extradition of Lugovoi, now a Russian lawmaker, but London has maintained its demand.

Speaking in an interview with the Russian top opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta published on Wednesday, Hague insisted that Lugovoi must stand trial in Britain.

"If the British have any kind of evidence that proves I am guilty, let them present it to the public," Lugovoi said.

British police accused Lugovoi of murdering Litvinenko, a former Russian spy turned self-exiled Kremlin critic, by lacing his tea with radioactive polonium in a London hotel in November 2006.

Lugovoi has since then reinvented himself as a Russian lawmaker for the Liberal Democrats, a pro-Kremlin ultra-nationalist party.

Russia has refused to extradite him to Britain, citing a constitutional bar on such extraditions.

© 2010 AFP

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