Spy case to hit EU-Russia agreement

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Alexander Litvinenko’s murder is set to affect the content of any new partnership agreement between the European Union and Russia, as the repercussions of the case continue to broaden.

The EU is poised to insist any deal should reflect issues raised by Moscow’s response to last November’s poisoning in London of the former KGB officer with polonium-210 and its refusal to agree to UK demands to extradite the chief suspect, Andrei Lugovoi.

The current EU-Russia partnership and co-operation agreement – the legal framework governing the political, economic and trade relationship between the two sides – expires on December 1.

David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary, will on Monday discuss the extradition dispute, which last week prompted the first tit-for-tat expulsions of Russian and UK diplomats for a decade, with EU counterparts in Brussels.

EU foreign ministers agreed at an earlier meeting to insert new language into an annexe to the negotiating mandate, covering matters to be taken into consideration in negotiations. Diplomats said this meant sections of a new agreement dealing with criminal justice, for example, would be expected to address issues raised by the Litvinenko case.

The precise language has yet to be agreed. But diplomats said it was likely to mean that issues such as simplified extradition procedures between the EU and Russia would become part of the talks. They added that the UK was not blocking the new negotiating mandate, and inserting the new language would not lengthen the delay in starting talks with Russia.

But negotiations on a replacement deal once the current EU-Russia agreement expires have been blocked by Warsaw until Russia lifts a ban on exports of Polish meat.

Russia has refused to extradite Mr Lugovoi to stand trial in the UK on the grounds that its constitution bars it from extraditing its nationals. Legal experts say similar bans in many EU states have been largely overcome in cases of extradition to other EU countries by the European arrest warrant, which came into force in 2004.

Diplomats say extending the European arrest warrant to Russia is unlikely. But the Litvinenko/Lugovoi case is likely to create pressure to bring Russia-EU extradition procedures more closely in line with EU norms.

Russia’s prosecutor-general’s office will hold a press conference on Monday on its co-operation with the UK authorities over the Litvin­enko murder. It is expected to hit back at British claims that it has failed to co-operate.

Kremlin officials said last week they had heard no complaints about the level of co-operation being provided by Russia from British police but only from political or Foreign Office officials quoted in the media.

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