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Britain orders 4 Russians expelled over polonium case

July 17, 2007|From the Associated Press

LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats Monday over the Kremlin's refusal to extradite the key suspect in the fatal poisoning of a former KGB spy.

Alexander Litvinenko died Nov. 23 in a London hospital after ingesting radioactive polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, the 43-year-old accused Russian President Vladimir V. Putin of being behind his killing.

British prosecutors have named Russian businessman and former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy as the chief suspect. Litvinenko said he first felt ill after meeting Lugovoy and business partner Dmitry Kovtun at a London hotel.

But Russia says its constitution prevents Lugovoy's extradition.

"When a murder takes place, when a number of innocent civilians were put at risk ... when an independent prosecuting authority makes it absolutely clear what is in the interest of justice and there is no forthcoming cooperation, then action has to be taken," Brown said, speaking of the expulsion order.

Britain also will place restrictions on visas issued to Russian government officials.

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