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Moscow says will work with London on Litvinenko, within Russian law

RIA Novosti

19:44 13/10/2010

MOSCOW, October 13 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is ready to cooperate with London over the controversial case of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, but will continue to adhere to Russian law, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

Former Russian security officer Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning in London on November 23, 2006. British investigators accused agent-turned-businessman Andrei Lugovoi of murder, and demanded his extradition, sparking a major diplomatic row.

Moscow has refused to hand over Lugovoi, citing lack of evidence and the Russian constitution, which does not allow extradition of Russian citizens to other countries. Lugovoi, who is now a member of Russia's parliament, has repeatedly denied involvement in the death.

"We reaffirm our position that we are ready to cooperate on the basis of our laws," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"This position is well known to the British side, we have not given up on it, but problems in relations between the two normal countries have never meant that all other areas of cooperation have to suffer," he added. "Here, we share a common position."

Britain does not intend to renew cooperation with the Russian intelligence services, which was interrupted unilaterally over Litvinenko's murder.

Britain's position on the issue has not changed, Hague said, adding that this should not hamper Moscow and London from cooperation in fighting drugs trafficking, migration, cyber and other crimes.

"We do not regard the continuing problems as a barrier for everything else," Lavrov said.

Russia is ready to cooperate with Britain over Litvinenko's case "to establish the truth ... of course, without any violations of our constitution, our laws."

Hague's 24-hour visit to Russia, which began on Tuesday, is his first as British Foreign Secretary. The diplomat took office as part of a coalition government in May.

Prior to his visit, Hague acknowledged that relations between Britain and Russia have been strained in recent years.

As well as the Litvinenko murder, the issues that have raised tensions between the two countries include bureaucratic pressure on the British Council in Russia and London's criticism of Moscow following the Russian-Georgian military conflict in August 2008.

For its part, Russia accuses Britain acting as a refuge for fugitive Russian businessmen, including Boris Berezovsky and Yevgeny Chichvarkin, the former head of Russia's largest mobile retailer, Euroset.

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