Miliband met by icy reception on debut mission to Moscow

Strained relations evident as Russia once again refuses Foreign Secretary's request to extradite Litvinenko suspect

David Miliband's demands that the man suspected of involvement in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko be extradited to London were again refused by the Russian government in high-level talks in Moscow yesterday.

The British Foreign Secretary's trip was the highest-ranking official British visit to Russia in years. But his Russian counterparty, Sergey Lavrov, made it clear that Mr Miliband's efforts to secure the extradition of the former security agent and current MP Andrei Lugovoi, as well as to make progress on a range of other issues that plague bilateral relations, would come to naught.

Mr Lugovoi is suspected of playing a role in the radioactive polonium poisoning of Mr Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent, in 2006.

"I suspect that our British counterparts are aware of the fact that a demand to change our constitution is not realistic," Mr Lavrov said, in a reference to Russia's argument that its law forbids extradition of citizens.

Relations between the two countries have been particularly strained since Mr Litvinenko's murder. But a range of other sticking points remain. Britain is still aggrieved by the closure of regional offices of the British Council, which President Dmitry Medvedev has accused of being a front for British spies, while the Russians are frustrated at the refusal of the British courts to extradite a number of Kremlin opponents living in Britain.

As Mr Miliband and Mr Lavrov met yesterday there was pointedly no talk of "pressing the reset button" with Russia in the same way that the administration of Barack Obama has done since the US President took office. It was instead made clear that the important differences between the countries would not simply go away, but that focus should be put on the areas – most notably the economy – where common interests are aligned.

Not only does Britain have the worst relationship with Russia of any major Western country, but there is also little love lost between the two ministers themselves. Mr Lavrov was alleged to have subjected Mr Miliband to an obscenity-filled tirade over the telephone, shortly after Russia's war with Georgia last year.

This visit was played as an attempt to move on and find areas where co-operation is possible, such as trade links and co-ordinating action over Iran's nuclear programme, Afghanistan and nuclear disarmament.

"Our discussions have been marked by mutual respect; personal, but also between our countries," said Mr Miliband. "Not only do we understand each other better, but we are going to find ways to work together better."

Nevertheless, the differences were there for all to see. The two ministers discussed the Litvinenko case at length, but it was clear that a mutually acceptable solution will not be found. Mr Lavrov, besides noting Britain's "unrealistic" demands, again suggested that Mr Lugovoi could be tried in Russia with the involvement of British law enforcement agencies, if Britain were to send Russia the required evidence. Mr Miliband insisted that British prosecutors had already sent their Russian counterparts all the materials necessary for them to co-operate, while Mr Lavrov retorted that this was not the case.

Analysts in Moscow said that Russian officials have little time for Mr Miliband, given his history of harsh words about Russia and vocal support for Georgia and Ukraine's entry into Nato. They expect a more conciliatory approach to be forthcoming from a potential future Conservative government.

The visit was unfortunately timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Mr Litvinenko's poisoning, which prompted angry words from his widow, Marina. "The fact remains that a British citizen was murdered in the centre of London in a state-sponsored act of nuclear terrorism," she said in a statement released last month. "The apparent softening of Mr Miliband's position is a great disappointment to me."

In addition to meeting Mr Lavrov, Mr Miliband met Mikhail Gorbachev, and also did the rounds of the few independent media outlets remaining in Russia, giving an interview to Ekho Moskvy radio and Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper where the murdered reporter Anna Politkovskaya worked.

Britain and Russia: Diplomatic incidents

*January 2006: The FSB accuses British diplomats of using a fake rock planted on a Moscow street to hold secret data.



*December 2006: Britain complains that ambassador Anthony Brenton has been subjected to harassment "bordering on violence" after he addressed an opposition meeting.



*April 2007: Russia renewed their request for extradition of tycoon Boris Berezovsky, an enemy of Vladimir Putin, but the requests were denied. Mr Berezovsky was granted political asylum in September 2003.



*May 2007: Britain makes first formal extradition request for Andrei Lugovoi over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Russia turns it down.

*January 2008: Russia demands British Council offices close after a tax dispute. Ultimately only one remains open.



*June 2009: Ongoing tensions are exemplified by David Miliband's warning that Russia "needs to change course".

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
VIDEO
News
With its new studios in Paris, Dailymotion has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit