Litvinenko suspect challenges British PM to meet him

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The chief suspect in the London killing of former Soviet agent Alexander Litvinenko challenged British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday to meet him during his visit to Russia.

British police accuse Andrei Lugovoi, of having carried out the murder by radiation poisioning in 2006. Lugovoi, like Litvinenko, is a former KGB man.

He told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper that London's approach to the case had been "pitiful" and it was time to "move on".

His comments came as Cameron began the first visit to Russia by a British premier since the murder of Kremlin critic Litvinenko, which chilled ties between the two countries.

Now a member of parliament, Lugovoi has immunity from prosecution. British prosecutors want to bring him to trial and Russia refuses to extradite him.

"The way the British have handled this matter is incorrect, vulgar and pitiful," Lugovoi said.

"My message to David Cameron is: stop politicising the situation, stop raising this question at a high level with Russian politicians, and move on.

"I'd be delighted to meet David Cameron. We could discuss UK-Russia relations. But I'm still waiting for his invitation," he said, laughing.

He said he would agree to stand trial for the killing in Russia -- something London has rejected -- but ruled out going on trial in Britain.

"It is out of the question," he said.

"If the case was not politicised I would come. But it is. But I'd be more than happy to be questioned by Scotland Yard by video conference. Why not?"

Lugovoi has suggested that a neutral third country conduct an independent probe into the killing.

"We need a legal resolution of the situation. The British have done all they can to hide and keep secret all the material on this. Why are they afraid to hand over the case material?" he said.

Branding Britain a "weak, liberal, overly tolerant country", he repeated his claims that Britain's secret services were involved in Litvinenko's death and the case against him.

Lugovoi said he felt he had the support of figures like Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the matter, though he had not directly raised it.

"But I knew that I had Mr Putin's support when he said a couple of years ago that English people needed to have brain transplants," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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