Tuesday, June 5, 2007. Issue 3671. Page 2.
Britain’s call for the extradition of suspect Andrei Lugovoi in the killing of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko is “stupidity,” President Vladimir Putin said in an interview released Monday.
Putin’s harsh characterization is likely to trouble further Russian-British relations, which already have hit a post-Cold War low amid the controversy over the killing.
Putin said British officials should have known that the Constitution would prevent the extradition.
“From whatever side you look at this problem, there’s only stupidity,” Putin said in an interview with journalists from Group of Eight countries.
“If they didn’t know [about the constitutional prohibition], it’s a low level of competence and thus we have doubts about what they’re doing there,” Putin said. “And if they knew and did this, it’s simply politics.
“This is bad and that is bad — from all sides it’s the same stupidity,” Putin said.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected Putin’s criticism and said Russia had not formally responded to the extradition request.
“Murder is anything but foolish. Murder has to be taken very seriously,” Blair’s spokesman said on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.
The spokesman also said a warning by Putin in the same interview that Russia could aim its missiles at Europe was worrying.
He said, however, that Putin’s remarks would not push climate change or Africa off the agenda at a G8 summit this week.
“If other issues want to be discussed, I’m sure they can be. But the German presidency has established what its priorities are and that is Africa and climate change,” he said.