My heart sinks as the distressing predictability of the Putin regime shows up yet again.
On November 23rd 2006 Alexander Litvinenko- a Russian defector, but a British Citizen- died in a London hospital. It transpired that he had been poisoned with Polonium 210, with a radioactive signature of Russian origin. Over the course of the past five months the Police investigation has discovered evidence that directly links a Russian intelligence operative, Andrei Lugovoi, to the administration of the poison in a cup of tea served at the Millennium hotel, Grosvenor Square. Today, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided that the evidence is such that Andrei Lugovoi may be charged with murder and his case sent for trial. As a Russian citizen residing in Moscow, the DPP will request the Russian authorities to extradite the indicted man to face trial.
The initial response of the Russian authorities is to refuse this entirely legitimate request.
Furthermore, on the same day, the Russian Environmental Agency has announced that they have found irregularities in the production sites of BP-TNK, the largest British investment in the Russian Federation. In the past when such declarations have been made, it has begun a process that squeezes out the international partner. In other words, the Russians are now putting the squeeze on BP, as a punishment for a Russian citizen being indicted for the crime of murder.
The breathtakingly crude link points out the fact that Lugovoi may well have been ordered to commit a murder by the Russian government itself. In which case, the regime in Moscow is an accomplice to murder. In the past such an act would amount to a declaration of war against the Queen's Peace and be a casus belli- a cause of war.
However, Russia has now announced that it wishes to solve its trade dispute with the EU, yet meanwhile the Nashi thugs are now picketing the Embassy of the European Union in Moscow, continuing their protest against Estonia.
The European Union and the UK in particular must now demonstrate to Russia that no progress at all is possible on improving trade or on allowing Russian entry into the WTO until they cease this illegal and disgraceful behaviour.
Without a complete change in attitude from the Kremlin, then a return to Cold War confrontation is inevitable. Despite the currently high prices of commodities, which has given Moscow a superficial swagger, in such a confrontation, Russia will be in an extremely weak position. Democratic Societies do not put the squeeze on business for political reasons, but the UK does have many ways to put pressure on Moscow- and Mr. Putin's own retirement plans may need to be changed if he were to face legal proceedings that could curtail his freedom to travel, for example.