Russian-British relations to develop normally, says Putin

Updated: 2007-07-20 03:23

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia and Britain will overcome the current crisis in bilateral relations, which was chilled by recent expelling of each other's diplomats.

"I think Russian-British relations will develop normally. I am convinced that we will cope with this mini-crisis too," RIA news agency quoted Putin as saying in the Russian Republic of Mordovia.

Both Russia and Britain were interested in developing bilateral relations, "but any actions should be matched with common sense. The legal rights and interests of partners should be respected, and then everything will take the best course," Putin was quoted as saying.

Britain decided on Monday to expel four diplomats from the Russian embassy in London due to Russia's refusal to extradite main suspect Andrei Lugovoi in the poisoning case of former agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Russia, in response, said on Thursday it will expel four British diplomats and stop conter-terrorism cooperation with Britain, as well as cease issuing visas for British officials.

Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning, from Polonium 210, in London on November 23 last year. Experts investigating his death found radiation traces at a dozen locations and on two British Airways airplanes that flew the Moscow-London route.

Lugovoi, a business partner of Litvinenko and also a former KGB agent, met him at a London hotel on November 1. Litvinenko fell ill on that day and died weeks later in a London hospital.

On July 5, Russia's Prosecutor General's Office formally rejected Britain's request for the extradition of Lugovoi.

Russia has said its rejection was based both on a constitutional ban on turning Russian citizens over to foreign countries, and on a European convention that allows signatories to refuse to extradite their nationals.

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