Extradition request 'politically motivated', says Lugovoy

Russian businessman Andrei Lugovoy today said that British prosecutors' decision to charge him with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko is "politically motivated", news agencies have reported.

Russian businessman Andrei Lugovoy today said that British prosecutors' decision to charge him with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko is "politically motivated", news agencies have reported.

"I consider that this decision to be political," Lugovoy was quoted as saying by RIA-Novosti and other agencies.

"I did not kill Litvinenko, I have no relation to his death and I can only express well-founded distrust for the so-called basis of proof collected by British judicial officials."

No one answered phone calls placed to Lugovoy's office and home.

The Russian prosecutor-general's office today said it would not turn over Lugovoy, the Interfax news agency reported.

"In accordance with Russian law, citizens of Russia cannot be turned over to foreign states," the agency quoted prosecutor's office spokeswoman Marina Gridneva as saying.

The office declined comment, referring callers to Russian agency reports.

However, a Russian politician raised doubts about the reported claim that Russian law prevented such extraditions.

Yuri Sharandin, chairman of the constitutional legislation committee of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, said it was possible for Russia to extradite its citizens, but that it also could refuse such requests.

Sharandin said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the matter would come under the European Convention on Extradition, to which both Russia and Britain are signatories.

He said the convention allows for such extraditions, but also gives the country receiving the request the right to refuse.

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