Murderer of Litvinenko to escape justice

The British government has given up hope of bringing the killer of Alexander Litvinenko to justice and is now concentrating its efforts on trying to ensure that similar murders do not take place in this country in the future, according to a senior source.

The former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi, wanted by the British authorities for the poisoning by polonium of Mr Litvinenko – also once a KGB and later FSB officer– is very unlikely to be extradited, said the official, especially as he is now a member of parliament in Moscow.

The source said: "It is most unlikely that we will be able to get Lugovoi, but we can try to make sure that we don't have another Litvinenko." To this end, the UK authorities took a series of punitive measures after the murder of 44-year-old Litvinenko, in London in November 2006, to "send a strong message that this kind of thing will not be tolerated".

Britain froze links with the Russian secret service FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the suspension stays in place. The UK authorities have said they are prepared to pass information on counter-terrorism to Russian intelligence agencies other than the FSB.

Mr Litvinenko died after drinking from a cup of green tea while with Mr Lugovoi and two other Russians at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in central London. The teapot was so irradiated that the bar and several employees suffered from contamination, including a pianist who drank from the teacup after it had gone through a dishwasher.

Asked about who may have ordered Mr Litvinenko's killing, the source said: "Litvinenko was a former member of the FSB and he became a very unpopular man. I assume as a result of that his death was either officially sanctioned or that some faction or other of the FSB tried to get him."

The source continued: "If he [Litvinenko] had drunk the whole cup of tea he would have died instantly. It is only because he sipped it that he lingered and polonium was detected."

The latest round of acrimonious tit-for-tat measures followed broadcasting of claims that MI5 believed the Russian state was involved in the killing of Mr Litvinenko. This was followed by the Russians accusing a British diplomat, Chris Bowers, the acting director of trade and investment at the Moscow embassy, of being a spy, a claim strongly denied by the UK government. The Russians have also forced the British Council in Moscow to stop operations, and interrogated members of staff.

Gordon Brown used his first meeting with President Dimitry Medvedev of Russia last month to present a list of British grievances, chief among them the failure to extradite Mr Lugovoi. There was also the complaint that Russian intelligence activity in the UK has significantly increased recently, with, it is claimed, up to 30 Russian agents working out of the embassy and the country's trade mission, forcing MI5 to divert attention from combating Islamist terrorism.

But the Russian ambassador to the UK, Yuri Fedotov, maintained that Mr Lugovoi could not possibly have a fair trial in the UK "because of the political and emotional context" of the case. He also pointed out that Britain has refused to co-operate with the extradition of about 20 people wanted by the Russians, including the exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky who had called for the overthrow of Vladimir Putin, when Mr Putin was president.

The UK source said that despite difficulties, relations between Britain and Russia were thawing and there was scope for co-operation in several fields.

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
travelFrom Notting Hill Carnival to Zombeavers at FrightFest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home