Despite Britain’s main suspect in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko is a member in Russia's new parliament, Britain will insist on his extradition, Russian news agencies quoted British ambassador as saying.
Britain has sought the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, a former security service operative, for trial in last year's killing of Litvinenko, a dissident former security agent who was poisoned with a rare radioactive substance in London, where he had received asylum.
Russia has refused the request on the grounds that the constitution prohibits extradition of Russian citizens. Officials had said that Lugovoi could be prosecuted in Russia if Britain presented sufficient evidence.
But that proposal, which Britain firmly rejects, became even less likely after last week's elections for the State Duma. Lugovoi was No. 2 on the party list of the Liberal Democratic Party, which won 40 seats, making it likely he will become a member of parliament and receive the corresponding immunity from prosecution.
"Nothing has changed regarding Lugovoi. It's difficult for me to understand how he could be a deputy, but we will continue to demand his extradition," Ambassador Anthony Brenton was quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency as telling reporters in St. Petersburg.
The Litvinenko killing and its aftermath drove Russian-British relations to a low point. This summer, Britain ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats as punishment for the refusal to extradite Lugovoi, and Russia retaliated by expelling four British diplomats.
In exile, Litvinenko co-wrote a book alleging that agents of the Federal Security Service, for whom he also had worked, were responsible for a series of fatal apartment bombings in 1999 that authorities blamed on Chechen separatists. The bombings were among the chief justifications Russia cited for resuming the war in Chechnya.
Litvinenko became a close associate in Britain of Chechen separatist envoy Akhmed Zakayev and of tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider who has become a vehement critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zakayev and Berezovsky both have been granted British citizenship and Britain has refused repeated Russian calls for their extradition.