Britain regrets Russia's Lugovoy elected to Duma

Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB officer named as a suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London last year, speaks to the media during his visit to Manturovo settlement in the southwestern Russian Kursk region November 22, 2007. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

TOMSK, Russia (Reuters) - Britain’s ambassador to Russia said on Friday he regretted the main suspect in the murder by radioactive poison of an outspoken Kremlin critic in London last year had been elected to the Russian parliament.

Relations between Britain and Russia were damaged after Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent turned dissident, died last November in a London hospital.

British police later charged Andrei Lugovoy, a Moscow-based businessman, with the killing. Russia has refused to extradite him, citing a law which bans it from extraditing nationals. Lugovoy has repeatedly said he is innocent.

“It is a pity that a man wanted for murder gains political recognition. It does Russia no good at all to have Lugovoy there in the parliament, it continues the suspicion,” Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Tony Brenton, told Reuters.

“If he steps a foot out of Russia he will be arrested. We want him,” said Brenton, on a trip to the West Siberian city of Tomsk, where London-listed oil firm Imperial Energy operates.

Lugovoy was elected to the lower house of parliament, the Duma, over the weekend as No. 2 on the list of the nationalist LDPR party, whose leader has even said Lugovoy might become deputy head of the Duma’s key security committee.

Britain wants Russia to extradite Lugovoy to face trial in London for the murder of Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive isotope polonium-210 slipped into a cup of tea he drank in a London hotel bar.

In a statement that Litvinenko’s friends said the ex-spy made at a London hospital as he lay dying, he accused President Vladimir Putin of involvement in his murder.

The Kremlin dismissed that as nonsense.


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