A thorny conversation itinerary awaits British Prime Minister David Cameron, as he makes a historic visit to Russia, planning talks with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.
Contentious extradition disagreements between the two countries could well sour the long awaited visit but business prospects could prove a less touchy and no less meaty issue.
Britain insists that Andrei Lugovoi be handed over to the UK for his alleged involvement in the murder of Russian security agent turned British citizen Alexander Litvinenko, Lugovoi suggested meeting the prime minister when he came over.
Russia meanwhile is seeking the return of businessman Boris Berezovsky and others, chiefly for economic crimes. The pundits say the meeting will change little in this respect.
Tea with the prime minister
“I’d be delighted to meet David Cameron. We could discuss UK-Russia relations. But I’m still waiting for his invitation,” Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard and now a nationalist Duma deputy, told The Telegraph.
He slammed the UK as “a weak, liberal, overly tolerant country” and says he will not get a fair trial in what has become a highly charged political issue.
Cameron has not scheduled a meeting with Lugovoi.
Four former British foreign secretaries, Margaret Beckett, David Miliband, Jack Straw and Sir Malcom Rifkind urged Cameron ahead of his visit to take a firm stance on the Litvinenko issue, they said in a letter to the Sunday Times.
The extradition issue looks set to overshadow the first visit of a British PM to Russia for six years. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is also to meet Cameron, no British diplomat or minister has spoken with him in four years, the BBC reported.
The visit may mark a gear change in Russo-British relations but is unlikely to bring about serious transitions, “As regards the prospects for this visit, I think that by and large nothing will come out of it,” Valery Yegozaryan, head of international relations at the Institute for Public Planning, told Kommersant.
“It is only tactical maneuvering which, unfortunately, will not radically change Russo-British relations,” he said.
Elena Ananyeva of the Russia Academy of Sciences told the paper that Cameron’s priority is his country’s national debt and experts reckon that British oil major BP and its stormy ride in Russia will occupy a sizeable portion of discussions.