Amid an escalating diplomatic row over Russia's refusal to extradite murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi, President Vladimir Putin has accused British authorities of 'colonial thinking' for making high-handed demands toward Moscow.
"It's their mindset, not our constitution, which needs to be changed. What they are offering to us is a clear remnant of colonial thinking," Putin said in remarks televised by Russian state TV.
"They must have clearly forgotten that Britain is no longer a colonial power, there are no colonies left and, thank God, Russia has never been a British colony," Putin said.
Lugovoi is accused of killing anti-Kremlin ex-spy Alexander Litivinenko in London last year with a dose of deadly Polonium-210. Russia has refused to hand him over for trial in London, citing a constitutional provision that protects citizens from extradition.
This weekend, British ambassador to Moscow Anthony Brenton told a Russian news agency that Lugovoi allegedly put millions of Londoners at risk of radiation poisoning and therefore must be tried in Britain.
"We are not asking Russia to disobey its own Constitution — but to work with us creatively to find a way around this impediment, given the serious and unprecedented nature of this murder," Brenton said.
But officials in Moscow have reacted with indignation to what sounds to them like a suggestion from a senior British official that Russia's Constitution should be ignored, culminating in Putin's remarks on Tuesday.
Putin said that Moscow for years has unsuccessfully tried to extradite at least 21 alleged Russian criminals from Britain, including the Kremlin's arch-foe Boris Berezovsky, and added that he was personally growing tired of the "insulting" demands in this case.
"They do not extradite anyone, including those suspected and accused of terrorist activities, who hide in their territory, but they issue demands to other countries, including recommendations to change the constitution, which is an insult to our country," Putin said.