Human rights before Russian business

The Times

There are sound reasons for wanting to rebuild a working political relationship with Russia and most have to do with business. The country is on the cusp of major modernisation. It is a pivotal force in the European energy market. Anglo-Russian trade is up fifty per cent in the first six months of this year and if only the British played ball, sigh Russian officials, it could be so much more.

But this is not the time to surrender principled policies on human rights and the rule of law in return for commercial advantage. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, has told Britain to throw overboard its “ideological obsessions”, its Cold War hang-ups — by which he means dropping calls for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, wanted in Britain on suspicion of helping to kill Alexander Litvinenko in a spectacularly macabre London poisoning. Well, Mr Lavrov may regard this as ideological claptrap, but the British are right to treat it as a question of legal process. It is time that the Kremlin understood the difference.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, last week declared the three core goals of his foreign policy to be security, prosperity and the protection of British individuals and interests. Fair enough, but what happens — as in the case of Russia — when the legitimate drive to do deals with an oil-rich economy becomes entangled with human rights abuse, when priorities clash?

Can one simply ignore the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky — a lawyer for the British citizen William Browder, founder of London-based Hermitage Capital Management? Mr Magnitsky died in police custody after accusing Interior Ministry officials of corruption. David Cameron may only be on a one-day trip but it would be reckless not to raise Mr Magnitsky’s death, or the British interest in the extradition of Mr Lugovoi, or the raid on the Moscow offices of BP.

These are separate issues. Mr Lugovoi is particularly tricky since he can shelter behind two protective shields: a constitutional ban on extradition and his legal immunity as a member of the Russian parliament. But all three matters demand a more nuanced approach to Russia than simply declaring business first.

The US, which announced early in the Obama Administration that it was pressing the reset button on its troubled relationship with Moscow, was not afraid in July to introduce a travel ban on, and freeze of, the assets of 60 Russian officials implicated in the death of Mr Magnitsky. The Kremlin may regard this as American sabre-rattling, and our own limited Litvinenko-related sanctions as a throwback to the era of George Smiley, but history shows that Russian leaders have scant respect for Western governments that do not stand their ground. payday loan займы онлайн на карту срочно https://zp-pdl.com/fast-and-easy-payday-loans-online.php https://www.zp-pdl.com займ на карту без отказов круглосуточно

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