By Con Coughlin, The Telegraph
I fear that Vladimir Putin’s confirmation that he is to seek re-election as Russia’s president does not bode well for the future of Anglo-Russian relations. Within days of Mr Putin declaring his intention to re-occupy the Kremlin the first warning shot has been fired at Britain in the form of an official demand for Britain to extradite 43 Russian citizens who have fled to the UK.
The Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, claims the mass extraditions will help to improve relations between the two countries. I regard it as nothing more than a blatant act of intimidation against David Cameron following his recent, inconclusive, visit to Moscow.
The main purpose of Mr Cameron’s visit was to initiate a thaw in the frosty relations that have existed between London and Moscow ever since Russian intelligence officers were implicated in the 2006 assassination of dissident ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium at a London hotel. Russia has consistently refused to hand over Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the case.
But rather than making any admission of guilt, the Russians have resorted to their usual bully-boy tactics by demanding that Britain extradite the exotic assortment of Russian billionaires and pro-democracy campaigners who have sought refuge in London.
The latest senior Russian official to fall foul of the Kremlin is Andrei Borodin, the former chief executive officer of the Bank of Moscow, who has gone into hiding after the Russian government accused him of irregularities relating to a $400 million loan. But Mr Borodin claims he is the victim of a politically-motivated takeover of the bank. Continue reading