“They will stay as long as it takes.” These were the words of a British Embassy spokesman in Moscow, as Scotland Yard detectives start work there, probing the poisoning of a former spy. The building has been tested for radiation, as a precaution. It comes as Russia sets boundaries for what UK officers will and will not be able to do.
They will not be allowed to interview jailed former Russian agent Mikhail Trepashkin. He has apparently penned a letter purporting to show a secret squad was set up to target Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB man who died in London from polonium 210.
Despite reports to the contrary, Russia’s chief prosecutor claimed the British had not asked to question him anyway. Dismissing speculation that the radioactive substance had been smuggled into the UK from Russia, Yuri Chaika said that if any Russian citizens are identified as suspects, they will be tried in a Russian, not a British, court. Extraditions, he said, would not be possible.
He did say however that his officials would help Scotland Yard gain access to Andrei Lugovoi, an associate of Litvinenko who met him on the day he fell ill. Relations are strained between Russia and Britain after Litvinenko claimed Vladimir Putin ordered his death. While Moscow says it will co-operate with British detectives, it is clear that on Russian soil, Russian officials will remain in control.