UK’s Hague seeks to improve relations with Russia

* UK Foreign Secretary Hague to meet Medvedev, Lavrov

* Relations strained by London killing of emigre Litvinenko

MOSCOW, Oct 13 (BestGrowthStock) – Russia and Britain will seek to
improve ties badly damaged by the murder in London of a Kremlin
critic when British Foreign Secretary William Hague meets
Russian leaders on Wednesday.

Hague, part of a coalition government which took office in
May, will meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and President
Dmitry Medvedev during his 24-hour visit which began on Tuesday.

Relations between the previous British government and Russia
deteriorated badly after the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko
in London with a rare radioactive isotope.

Britain has called on Moscow to extradite former KGB
bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy to stand trial for the murder. Russian
officials and Lugovoy have denied any link to the murder and
Moscow has ruled out the extradition.

Hague, who plans to discuss the Middle East peace process
and Iran’s disputed nuclear programme while in Moscow,
acknowledged tensions between the two countries.

“Britain’s relations with Russia have been strained by a
number of serious issues on which we do not see eye to eye,”
Hague said in a statement before the visit.

“Where we do differ, I shall say so plainly and clearly,
while exploring the scope to address those differences. The door
is open to better relations between Britain and Russia; we shall
see if a door opens in return.”

NO SOFTENING OF LINE

The row over Litvinenko’s murder led London and Moscow to
expel diplomats three years ago.

Even before the murder, mutual espionage accusations and
Britain’s granting of political asylum to some of the Kremlin’s
enemies had harmed bilateral business and trade.

A foreign office source said Britain had no intention of
softening its line on Lugovoy.

“The Foreign Secretary is not going to say we give up on the
Lugovoy case for the sake of business, that’s not where we’re
at,” he said.

More than 1,000 British businesses have a base in Russia,
the largest investor being oil company BP through its TNK-BP
joint venture.
The British are encouraged by the fact that Hague will meet
Medvedev but are aware that both sides are getting to know each
other after the change of government in London.

“The key part of what we’re looking for is to establish the
tone of the dialogue with Russia. It’s early stages in the new
government’s dealings with Russia,” the foreign office source
said.

Moscow suggested they were looking for Hague to provide the
impetus after a visit by his predecessor David Miliband last
November failed to end the freeze.

“I hope to hear specific responses from my colleague
(Hague), because we do not need a ‘reset’ on the Russian side,”
Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday.

“We see an inadequate situation in relations. It wasn’t our
initiative that led to this, and so we are expecting a reaction
to our goodwill.”
(Writing by Keith Weir in London; additional reporting by
Alexei Anishchuk in Moscow; editing by Noah Barkin)

UK’s Hague seeks to improve relations with Russia