British Queen celebrates


Britain is looking to open up a new dialogue on security co-operation with Moscow, four years after breaking off contacts with the Russian security service following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in London for talks with David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague as the coalition Government continues its efforts to rebuild relations with the Kremlin.

The killing of Mr Litvinenko, a dissident former KGB officer who was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London in November 2006, has cast a long shadow over relations between the two countries.

The following year the then Labour government broke off all links between Britain and the FSB - the post-Soviet successor to the KGB - after Russia refused to extradite another ex-KGB man, Andrei Lugovoi, wanted by police for the killing.



While the ban on contacts with the FSB remains, British officials are hoping the talks may help to identify alternative channels of communication through which issues such terrorism and organised crime can be discussed.

The Kremlin is facing a series of revolts in the North Caucasus region linked to Islamic extremists and diplomats believe the Russians are keen to draw on Britain's experience in dealing with jihadist radicalisation.

Britain in turn would like to secure a return for officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) to the embassy in Moscow to enable them to cooperate directly with the Russian authorities. There are also common security concerns around the London Olympics in 2012 and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Relations, however, remain difficult - with a series for tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions before Christmas and Kremlin anger over the arrest of the Russian researcher of Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock for alleged spying.

The expulsion of Guardian correspondent Luke Harding this month caused a further diplomatic spat, prompting Foreign Office minister David Lidington to say the Government "deplores" restrictions on the media in Russia. Mr Harding, who had been in London working on the WikiLeaks cables, has now been allowed to return to Moscow although it is still not clear if he will be able to stay indefinitely.

With Mr Cameron due to make his first visit as Prime Minister to Moscow later this year, officials hope they can establish the basis for what is being described as a "serious, grown-up, interests-based discussion".