Interview with Andrey Zagorsky

Andrey Zagorsky, a political analyst at the Moscow State University of International Relations, commented on the latest developments in the Russian-British dispute over the ongoing extradition case.

Russia Today: After being fairly moderate in his initial response to the crisis, Mr Putin now seems to have changed his attitude. Why this sudden change on the spot?

A.Z.: I’m not sure yet that this is a change, because what we saw was Mr Putin talking to a Russian youth group – it was largely addressed to a domestic audience. And indeed the suggestion that Russia should change its constitution was making heat in Russia, so Mr Putin was answering to domestic debate over the issue, and this was not necessarily a way of increasing the tension.

RT: But that was pretty strong talk.

A.Z.: It was, but Mr Putin is famous for this, especially while talking to a Russian audience.

RT: But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said he wants to normalise relations – that seems to be contradicting the president.

A.Z.: I think Moscow doesn’t wan to normalise – Moscow wants to get away from the dispute we have. Mr Putin may be angry with the lack of movement towards overcoming the dispute. Basically, I see both sides trying to isolate the dispute from their economic relations.

RT: Are you saying that economic relations should not be affected by this, or that they don’t want them to be affected?

A.Z.: There is pretty much at stake for Russia; and there is pretty much at stake for Britain, because many businesses are involved. Russia doesn’t want to loose investments. And both sides have been cautious enough to avoid any repercussions on the economic side.

RT: What kind of reaction can we expect from the British authorities to this latest statement?

A.Z.: So far it has been moderate, not stepping anything up. But basically, we don’t know what will be their next move. I think this is the moment when we can either increase the tension, or we can slow down the political rhetoric, and look at legal options, because I do believe that we have legal solutions to this problem.

RT: Maybe have a trial in a third country, or an international trial of some sort?

A.Z.: We have two facts. The British government believes there’s enough evidence in the case and wants a trial, which is O.K. The Russian constitution does not allow the extradition of Mr Lugovoy, so Moscow is offering to have a trial in Russia. I pretty much understand that the British authorities would want guarantees that this would be a fair trial, so we may think of ways of observation of the trial, probably having British representation in the process, which could be done I think. We can also think of some other scenario, because Mr Lugovoy himself is suffering very much from the consequences of this case. It’s his reputation, his business, his travelling that is damaged. So I would not exclude that Mr Lugovoy could sue the British government either in the UK or in a third country. And he would not have to show up himself for the trial – he could be represented by a lawyer just to show whatever evidence he has. This could be another path.

RT: It is almost becoming a duel been the two leaders. Gordon Brown wants to assert his position as new British Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin is asserting Russia's position on the world stage. Where is this going to lead to?

A.Z.: I don’t really see this as really a personal thing. Gordon Brown, I think, will not wish to get involved in this directly and personally, and Mr Putin is stepping down in a year, so why would he want to leave this legacy? I’m still quite optimistic over finding a way out, but we need to overcome the rhetoric as soon as possible for this.

RT: Will it become worse before getting better?

A.Z.: It may, but I think we have enough common sense to overcome this.