Extradition demand for Litvinenko murder suspect 'foolish': Russian president
( AFP ) - British demands for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi -- the chief suspect in the murder of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko -- is "foolishness," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with newspapers from the Group of Eight industrialised nations.
"If the people who sent us this demand do not know that by Russian constitution Russian citizens cannot be extradited to foreign states, then their competence is in question," Putin said as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
"And if they knew this and still did it, that it was PR and politics. So however you look at this, it is pure foolishness," Putin scoffed.
Putin also said that the British extradition demand "lacked evidence on why we should do that -- as diplomats say, it lacks substance, lacks those very materials that British colleagues were basing on when they sent the demand."
The clash over where to hold a trial of Lugovoi, suspected by Britain of poisoning Litvinenko in London last year, has deepened a diplomatic crisis between the two states over the killing.
Russian officials said that Lugovoi could be tried in Russia if the British side provided enough strong evidence, but refused to hand him over as extradition would contradict the Russian constitution.
Britain has pointed to Russia's signature of a 1957 convention on extraditions and an agreement signed between the prosecutors of both countries last year.
Litvinenko, a Kremlin critic who accused the Russian secret service of orchestrating bombings in 1999 that killed hundreds of civilians, received political asylum in Britain and British citizenship before his murder.