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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Miliband speech in full
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has given a statement to the Commons on the latest developments in the Alexander Litvinenko murder case.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on developments in the Litvinenko case.

This is a situation the government has not sought, and does not welcome. However we have no choice but to address it.

The government believes that Russia is a key international partner for the UK. We want to work with the government of Russia and its people in tackling priority international issues such as climate change, Kosovo, Iran, the Middle East peace process and Sudan.

Russia plays a global role in the battles against terrorism, the proliferation of WMD, illegal migration, drugs and international crime.

The cultural exchange between our two countries is extensive. Our bilateral trade relationship is large and growing, including considerable benefits for the City of London.

British companies are making a major contribution to the Russian economy. For all these reasons we need a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

On 28 May the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) presented the Russian authorities with a formal request for the extradition to the UK of Andrei Lugovoi, so that he might stand trial for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in a British court.

Let me remind the House of the relevant procedures. The Crown Prosecution Service is an independent prosecuting authority.

Once the Metropolitan Police has referred a case to the Crown Prosecution Service, it is then for the CPS to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to bring charges, and that it is in the public interest to do so.

The CPS concluded that Mr Lugovoi did indeed have a case to answer, and sought the assistance of the Home Office in requesting his extradition from Russia.

On 6 July the Russian deputy prosecutor general sent an official letter to the home secretary refusing to extradite Mr Lugovoi.

The director of public prosecutions announced on 10 July that, despite the Russian response, he continues to press for a trial of Mr Lugovoi in England.

Mr Speaker, given the seriousness of the crime and our ambitions for our bilateral relationship with Russia, Russia's reply to the CPS' extradition is extremely disappointing.

It suggests that the Russian government has failed to register either how seriously we treat this case or the seriousness of the issues involved, despite lobbying at the highest level and clear explanations of our need for a satisfactory response. I think, Mr Speaker, that it is worth reiterating why this matters.

The Metropolitan Police has assembled a significant body of evidence against Andrei Lugovoi.

I can confirm the following. It is alleged that this grave crime took place in London in November 2006 when Mr Lugovoi poisoned Mr Litvinenko by administering a lethal dose of Polonium-210, a highly radioactive substance.

It is part of the prosecution case that on the afternoon of 1 November 2006, Mr Litvinenko drank tea which he had poured, after an invitation from Mr Lugovoi, from a teapot which was later found to be heavily contaminated with Polonium-210.

There is also evidence that shows a trail of Polonium-210 on aircraft in which Mr Lugovoi travelled to and from London. On 23 November, Mr Litvinenko died in a London hospital of acute radiation injury.

The facts Mr Speaker are therefore that a UK citizen has suffered a horrifying and lingering death. His murder put hundreds of others, residents and visitors, at risk of radiation contamination.

And the UK government has a wider duty to ensure the safety of the large Russian community living in the UK.

The deputy prosecutor general's letter says that the Russian constitution currently bars extradition. The Russian authorities have given no indication of any willingness to work with us to address this.

This situation is not unique, and other countries have amended their constitutions, for example to give effect to the European Arrest Warrant.

Indeed, Russia wants the EU and UK to open their borders to free movement of people, goods and services, as part of an intensification of relations. This needs to be matched by an equal Russian commitment to cross-border judicial co-operation.

Since Mr Litvinenko's death, the government's key priority has been to ensure the integrity of the legal process in order to secure justice for Mr Litvinenko.

The director of public prosecutions made clear that the allegations against Mr Lugovoi refer to a crime against a British citizen in London. The appropriate venue for the trial is therefore London.

Moreover, both the UN and the EU have reported their concern that the law in Russia is applied selectively. There would, therefore, be grounds for a legal challenge over any attempt to accept a trial in Russia.

Given the importance of this issue, and Russia's failure to co-operate to find a solution, we need an appropriate response.

Our aims are clear: first to advance our judicial process, second to bring home to the Russian government the consequences of their failure to co-operate and third to emphasise our commitment to promoting the safety of British citizens and visitors.

I have therefore agreed with colleagues across government the following steps. First, we will expel four diplomats from the Russian Embassy in London.

Second, we shall review the extent of our co-operation with Russia on a range of issues and as an initial step we have suspended visa facilitation negotiations with Russia and made other changes to visa practice.

Third, international agreements mean Mr Lugovoi could be extradited to the UK if he travelled abroad.

Fourth, we are grateful for the strong support we have received from EU partners and close allies, including through the EU Presidency statement on 1 June. We will discuss with partners the need for future EU-Russia engagement to take our concerns on this case into account.

Mr Speaker, the foundation of an effective international partnership is a set of shared values. The measures I am announcing are intended to uphold key individual rights and vital principles of independent judicial process.

On that basis we will continue to work with the government of Russia for mutual benefit. I will keep Parliament informed of developments as appropriate.

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