On November 1 last year, Andrei Lugovoi met Alexander Litvinenko in London. Twenty three days later, Litvinenko died. His organs had ceased to function, but the cause remained obscure. Specialists then determined that he had died from absorbing Polonium 210, which even in a minute dose has the effect of radiation.
Lugovoi, Scotland Yard detectives found, had left a trail of Polonium 210 wherever he had been. He was an ex-KGB officer, well connected, in a position to obtain Polonium 210, which is produced only by the state in Russia. You did not have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that he was the prime suspect. And sure enough, the police today have handed their completed dossier to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and he has decided to issue a warrant for the extradition of Lugovoi. This, he declares, is in the public interest. Within minutes, the Russian authorities announced that there was no legal authority to extradite Russians to stand trial in a foreign court. From their point of view, then, it is quite all right to murder Russians abroad and then to obstruct justice. Nothing new there, of course.
The Russians are harassing the British ambassador in Moscow. Youngsters from a nationalist-fascist movement called Nashi have been mobilised to trail him and shout at him. Vladimir Putin and his men seem to equate power with this sort of intimidation, and considering the rough stuff they are currently dishing out to Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and others, the British are fairly lucky so far. As a result of the warrant for Lugovoi, however, some British business in Russia is likely to have trouble with the local tax man, and something very nasty and very accidental may well happen to a British journalist or tourist. Nothing new there either, of course.