LAST Friday I suggested here that, since each side had made its diplomatic point over the Litvinenko case, the dispute should be dropped rather than escalated. But it seems that Britain has no intention of calming the waters.

The British Ambassador in Moscow, Sir Anthony Brenton, has now resumed his criticism of the Kremlin's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoy to Britain in connection with the murder Mr Litvinenko by challenging Russia's view that its Constitution prohibits the extradition of one of its citizens to face trial in another country. In a statement likely to infuriate the Kremlin, Sir Anthony has pointed out how other provisions of the Russian constitution are routinely ignored and has suggested that the one relating to extradition could equally well be sidestepped. He has also answered Russia's complaints that Britain will not agree to the extradition of the Russian anti-Putin businessman Boris Berezovsky to Moscow. In Britain, says Sir Anthony, the courts determine extraditions not, as in Russia, the government. No doubt the Russian Ambassador in London could respond by hinting that surely there are ways in which the British government could put a little pressure on the courts. He would be wrong but the suggestion would be no more offensive than those made by Sir Anthony Brenton.

What game is Britain playing? Would it not be better to settle for the score draw of four diplomats expelled from each side before it all gets out of hand?


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