Ah, the delicate politics of official confirmation or denial – in a country where so many wantonly outrageous stories are leaked to the press, hearing the official comment during the morning briefing is often what separates news from libel lawsuits. Following BBC Newsnight’s blockbuster report quoting high ranking security officials (allegedly from MI5; video can be seen here) that they strongly believe the Russian government was involved in the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, relations between the two countries have been rankled, and Gordon Brown’s first meeting with Medvedev spoiled. OK, that is certainly an accusation we have heard from many outside of the investigation, but where, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom is frantically demanding, is Downing Street’s denial of this report? So far, mysteriously absent, and Yuri Fedotov is not happy about it (photographed here, talking with his favorite state-owned media). The Financial Times reports:
Yuri Fedotov, Russia’s ambassador, said he had no doubt the BBC was correctly reporting its sources but insisted the allegation by security officials was without foundation. “Since references were made to interviews with high level officials in MI5 … it would be natural to have clarifications from Downing Street as to whether or not such comments were made,” he said. “If this is what they [the security services] are saying, then in Russia we would have to draw the necessary conclusions.”
Mr Fedotov said it was too early to say what action Russia would take if Downing Street refused to deny the claim that the Russian state backed the murder. But he added: “The current state of our bilateral relationship is not a tragedy. We can live with it.”Mr Fedotov said the allegations made by security officials in the BBC report formed part of what he called “a propaganda campaign” against Russia.He said he would also be seeking clarification from Downing Street about an article in The Times last week suggesting “Britain’s security services” had identified Russia as “the third most serious threat facing the country after al-Qaeda terrorism and Iranian nuclear proliferation”.Commenting on the general state of the relationship between London and Moscow, Mr Fedotov said the Kremlin would like to see an improvement.