Morning press briefing from 12 July 2007
Asked if anything was expected imminently in terms of what measures we might be taking, the PMS replied that journalists should keep in touch with the Foreign Office.
Asked where the Prime Minister saw Britain's relations with Russia now that Russia had said that they would not extradite Lugovoy, the PMS replied that as he had said repeatedly in recent days, we seek a constructive relationship with Russia, but this was a very serious crime committed against a British citizen on British soil.
Put that among the options being considered in relation to Russia, there had been a report today that the expulsion of Russian diplomats might be considered, and asked if this was something we recognised, the PMS replied that he was not in a position to comment on any specific measures.
Asked when we would be responding, the PMS replied that we could expect something shortly.
Afternoon press briefing from 12 July 2007
Asked if there was any further movement on Russia, the Prime Minster's Spokesman (PMS) said that there was nothing further to say, but that people should keep in touch with the FCO.
Morning press briefing from 16 July 2007
Asked what contact the Prime Minister had had with President Putin since coming to office, and had they discussed the Litvinenko case, the PMS replied that there was nothing to add to what had been said previously on this. There had been contact between the British and Russian Governments on this matter, but it was better to wait for the Foreign Secretary's statement later this afternoon.
Put that the PMS had told journalists how many calls or video conferences there had been between the Prime Minister and President Bush, and how many times had he spoken to President Putin, the PMS said that he had held a meeting with President Putin before he became Prime Minister, as we had said before.
Afternoon press briefing from 16 July 2007
Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans to meet President Putin, or any plans to speak to him, the PMS replied that they had spoken prior to him becoming Primer Minister, indeed they had met prior to him becoming Prime Minister, and clearly there had been contact with the Russian Government as you would expect. There were no plans for any future meetings, but obviously these things were kept under constant review.
Asked if there was scope to try a suspect in the Litvinenko case in his absence, the PMS replied that he was not a lawyer or legal expert. We had made an extradition request, and clearly that was what we were seeking to pursue.
Put to him that with our relations with Russia on a downward path, and relations with the US not exactly on the up, were we looking for some sort of "third way", the PMS replied that he realised that there had been attempts to characterise the American relationship in that way, but as the Prime Minister emphasised on Friday, and as the Foreign Secretary emphasised on Sunday, we want a strong relationship with the US and we see the US as our single most important bilateral relationship. On Russia more generally, we wanted to seek to have a constructive relationship with Russia across a range of issues, Iran and Kosovo for example, and we had a very strong commercial relationship with them. But in relation to the Litvinenko case, as we had said many times, this was a serious crime, committed on British soil against a British citizen.
Morning press briefing from 17 July 2007
Asked if there had been any further contact with the Russian authorities, the PMS replied that there was contact yesterday between David Miliband and his opposite number. But we were not in a position to comment on specific contacts beyond that, and journalists should speak to the Foreign Office.
Asked why the Prime Minister has chosen not to contact President Putin, the PMS replied that David Miliband was the Foreign Secretary so he was in the lead on this, and he had been in discussions with his opposite number.
Asked if we saw this dispute with Russia as being about more than just the Litvinenko case, the PMS replied that as we had always made clear, and as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday in Berlin and David Miliband made clear in his statement to the House, we seek a constructive relationship with Russia across a wide range of issues. We were in close contact on discussions around issues such as Iran, Kosovo, and the Middle East peace process, and we intended that to continue. But our position on this was very clear - this was a very serious crime that was committed on the streets of London, and therefore we considered that retaliatory measures were necessary.
Asked if there was a sense that Russia had been ceasing to offer such a constructive role on other issues, and was there a sense here of maybe standing up to them, the PMS replied that this was about this particular issue. We had a constructive relationship with Russia across a broad front. We had a strong commercial relationship with them, and we had a constructive diplomatic relationship with them on all of these other matters.
Asked if the 4 diplomats to be expelled were going to be names out of a hat as a symbolic gesture, or was there any suggestion that they had been doing wrong, the PMS replied that it was best to speak to the Foreign Office on the detail. This was a general diplomatic retaliatory response that was taken in response to our disappointment with Russia's failure to cooperate.
Asked if there was a danger that given the Prime Minister had not spoken to President Putin, Russia regarded this as purely going through the motions, the PMS replied that David Miliband was speaking to his opposite number, and David Miliband was the Foreign Secretary. The Prime Minister was keeping a close interest in this. We had taken what we considered to be a proportionate response to the disappointing failure of Russia to cooperate on the extradition of Mr Lugovoi.
Put that there was a society in politics in Russia that was very heavily focussed on the President himself, and therefore a phonecall from Gordon Brown would help to show that this was a serious matter, the PMS replied that there was no doubt about the seriousness which people should consider our response on this matter.
Asked if there was a shortlist of further measures, and were we likely to take further steps, the PMS replied that we were not in a position to comment on this at this point. We were waiting to see what, if any, response came from Russia.
Asked if our current relationship with Russia strengthened the case for nuclear energy, the PMS replied that we set out the Government's case for nuclear energy, subject to consultation, in the White Paper that was published several months ago.
Asked if it was our position that we expected the Russians to hand over Lugovoi full stop, or might there be some sort of compromise for him to be tried in another country, the PMS replied that our position was that this was a crime committed in the UK and therefore a trial in the UK was appropriate in these circumstances, the Russians had offered a trial in Russia, which we did not consider to be acceptable.
Afternoon press briefing from 17 July 2007
Asked if people were still studying what the Russians had said, and were we waiting for a formal missive from the Russian Government to our Government, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that it was a matter for the Russians how and when they would respond. We had not received any formal response and there was nothing to be added to the Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday.
Asked if it was a concern that following the Foreign Secretary's statement, in making a response today, the Russians had not indicated that they would extradite Mr. Lugovoy, therefore, we were still in the same that we were before the statement yesterday, the PMS replied that our position was very clear on this. We thought that this individual should be extradited in order to face trial in a British court.
Put that we were still in the same position that we were this morning in terms of any further punitive measures, the PMS said again that we had not had any formal response from the Russians.
Asked what we made of the Russian Foreign Minister's spokesman's statement that said that this was a "direct path to confrontation" as well as raising the possibility that 80 British diplomats could be expelled from Russia, the PMS replied that he was not going to get into the business of responding to every statement that came out of Russia. Once we had received a formal response from the Russians, at that point, we would consider it carefully and consider what would happen next. With regards to the 80 diplomats, the PMS' understanding was that the Russian spokesman had said that there had been 21 extradition requests from the UK. If they were to expel 4 diplomats for every extradition request turned down, that would mean 80 diplomats.
Asked if there had been 21 extradition requests, the PMS said people should speak to the FCO.
Asked what we made of the argument that the Russians saw that there was a relationship between us making demands of them, while acting as a haven for Boris Berezovsky and others, and were we in any sense looking again at a solution for the Russians we were leaving here, the PMS said that these were very separate matters. In relation to Mr. Litvinenko, a very serious crime was committed on British soil that could have put at risk the lives of hundreds of people in the centre of London. The Crown Prosecution Service submitted a very detailed case to the Russian legal authorities making the case for extradition. We were disappointed that there had not been a constructive response to that request. In relation to other individuals, we had not received any equivalent detailed evidence setting out the case for extradition of those individuals, and it was a completely different issue.
Asked if this had come up at Cabinet today, the PMS said that David Miliband had updated the Cabinet, with the Cabinet supportive of the stance that the Foreign Secretary had set out.
Asked if there had been any discussion with European partners about the matter, the PMS said that there had been a discussion with Angela Merkel as well as a very robust European statement that was put out on 1st June supporting the UK's position. The FCO and David Miliband were in constant contact with our European partners on a whole range of issues.
Asked why the Prime Minister had allowed the decision to escalate from firm statements and demands to taking punitive action against diplomats, the PMS said because it was a serious matter. As the Prime Minister had said yesterday, this was not an issue that could be allowed to have no response. It was a serious crime on British soil and we had to take action, and we considered that this was the appropriate action to take.
Morning press briefing from 18 July 2007
Asked whether there was any development overnight from Russia, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said there was nothing new to report on, the Government had not heard from the Russians.
Asked repeatedly what was the reaction to the "hit man" story, the PMS said he did not comment on speculation about security matters and security for high profile individuals was a matter for the Home Office.
Asked whether the hit man issues had anything to do with moves to expel spies, the PMS said we had always made clear the reason for the decision we took. The announcements made by David Miliband on Monday were in response to the failure to cooperate by the Russian authorities in relation to the extradition of Mr Lugovoi.
Asked whether the Government was happy with the EU response so far, the PMS said the Government had a very supportive statement from France, Chancellor Merkel had also been very supportive on Monday. There was a EU Foreign Ministers' meeting on Monday, where no doubt there would be further discussions.
Asked whether the Government was happy with the statement issued by the EU on the 1st June, the PMS said yes.
Asked what did the Government think about a trial in another country, the PMS said we had always made clear that this was a crime committed on British soil and it should be trialled in a British court.