UK rejects Moscow’s Litvinenko offer

By Alex Stevenson

UK-British relations appear to have been boosted by William Hague’s first trip to Moscow as foreign secretary – despite a complete lack of progress over the ongoing Alexander Litvinenko dispute.

Britain continues to insist on a trial in the UK of Andrei Lugovoi, the man suspected of killing former KGB agent Mr Litvinenko by polonium-210 poisoning in November 2006.

Officials in Moscow had suggested holding a trial on Russian soil, as reported by before Mr Hague’s departure.

Charm offensive Russians to offer Litvinenko trial

But Mr Hague has stuck with the approach of the Labour government in refusing to recognise the independence of the Russian judicial system.

“Our countries have had some serious differences in the recent past and of course we always continue to discuss those, and we did not shy away from discussing them today,” he said in the press conference which followed talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We should be able to acknowledge where differences remain, and to apply our minds to them patiently through dialogue and through diplomacy.”

The intransigence of both countries has not stopped them putting the issue to one side and focusing on broader issues of economic cooperation, however.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s modernisation agenda fits well with Britain’s desire to strengthen commercial ties with Russia. Britain is already Russia’s largest foreign investor

Mr Hague and Mr Mavrov’s three hours of talks saw the pair explore Britain’s interest in promoting a knowledge-based Russian economy rather than a resource-based one.

“The British government will now encourage UK companies, research institutes, scientists and students to look for new opportunities with their Russian counterparts,” Mr Hague added.

“We will also continue to seek to attract high-quality Russian business into the UK as well as support UK investment into Russia.”

Britain already has cumulative investment in Russia of nearly £30 billion.