- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

1:56 p.m.

MOSCOW (AP) — Britain’s call for the extradition of a suspect in the killing of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko is “stupidity,” President Vladimir Putin said in an interview released today.

Mr. Putin’s harsh characterization is likely to further trouble British-Russian relations, which already have hit a post-Cold War low in the case of Mr. Litvinenko, who died in London in November from poisoning by a rare radioactive isotope.

Britain last month said it had enough evidence to charge Andrei Lugovoi, a Russian businessman and former KGB member who met with Mr. Litvinenko shortly before he fell ill, in the killing and asked for his extradition. Russian officials say the constitution prevents such extraditions.

Mr. Putin said British officials should have known that Russia’s constitution would prevent the extradition.

“From whatever side you look at this problem, there’s one stupidity,” Mr. Putin said in an interview with journalists from Group of Eight countries ahead of this week’s G-8 summit in Germany.

“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,” Mr. Putin said, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin. “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,” Mr. Putin said.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asked about Mr. Putin’s criticism, said only: “We haven’t had a formal response.”

Mr. Lugovoi has said Mr. Litvinenko was working for MI6, the British foreign intelligence agency, and that British intelligence may have had a hand in the slaying.

British intelligence officials have dismissed the charges by Mr. Lugovoi that Mr. Litvinenko, a fierce Putin critic, worked for them.

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