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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Putin rebukes 'colonial' Britain
President Putin
President Putin said Britain had forgotten it was not a colonial power
Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed a UK request for Andrei Lugovoi's extradition as the remnant of a "colonial mindset".

"They have long forgotten that it is a long time since Britain was a colonial power," he told Russian TV.

The UK expelled four diplomats after Russia refused to extradite Mr Lugovoi, who denies killing ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.

The Foreign Office said it was still trying get Moscow to extradite him.

Mr Putin was being filmed meeting pro-Kremlin youth groups at the presidential residence at Zavidovo when he was asked about the diplomatic row.

He said 30 people sought by Russian law enforcement agencies "for serious and very serious crimes" were taking refuge in London and Britain did not "bat an eyelid and did not even think about extraditing them".

"They (Britain) had the same problem, though to a lesser extent, with the USA, strange as it may sound, and with France and other countries," he said.

"They do not extradite to any country people who are hiding on their territory, including people who are suspected of and charged with terrorist activities."

He added that to other countries, Britain made "exaggerated claims", including "insulting advice" to "change our constitution".

"They should get their heads examined rather than tell us to change our constitution," he said.

'Respect partners'

Mr Putin said Britain's behaviour was "clearly a remnant of a colonial mindset".

"They don't have any colonies. And Russia, thank God, has never been a colony of Great Britain," he said.

The Russian president added: "It shows they still have in their heads the ideas of the last century or the century before that.

"They should treat their partners with respect. And if they do, we will treat them with respect."

KEY EVENTS IN CASE
1 November 2006: Alexander Litvinenko meets Andrei Lugovoi and another Russian at a London hotel
23 November 2006: Litvinenko dies in a London hospital
24 November 2006: A Litvinenko statement accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of involvement in his death. Experts say Litvinenko was poisoned
6 December 2006: UK police say they are treating the death as murder
22 May 2007: Lugovoi should be charged with Litvinenko's murder, British prosecutors say
28 May 2007: UK makes formal request for Lugovoi's extradition from Russia

Under the European Convention on Extradition 1957, Russia has the right to refuse the extradition of a citizen, and its constitution expressly forbids it.

A Foreign Office spokesman said that the government was still seeking to persuade Moscow to hand over Mr Lugovoi.

"We continue to look for a willingness from the Russian authorities to work constructively with us to bring this crime, committed in the UK, to justice in a UK court," he said.

Gordon Brown renewed his demand for the extradition of Mr Lugovoi on Monday and described the situation as "intolerable".

Last week, four Russian embassy staff were expelled from the UK after the British extradition request was refused.

That prompted Moscow to retaliate by asking four British embassy staff to leave within 10 days.

Mr Litvinenko, who had taken UK citizenship, died of exposure to radioactive polonium-210 in London in November 2006.

Traces of the radioactive isotope were found in several places visited by Mr Lugovoi, who denies any involvement in Mr Litvinenko's death.






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