Putin meets Cameron: 5 issues that should be on the agenda
The PM and the Russian president have Syria and human rights to discuss, as well as judo chokeholds
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin was due in London today to watch the Olympic judo - his favourite sport – and pop into 10 Downing Street for a quick chat before heading for the ExCel centre.
Putin will want to promote Russia's plans to extend the Gazprom pipeline to supply gas to the UK, potentially worth millions to the Russian economy. David Cameron is under pressure to raise five other pressing issues:
THE LITVINENKO CASE
Russia has refused repeated British requests for the extradition of the chief suspect in the 2006 Litvinenko poisoning case, ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi. Intelligence cooperation between Britain and Russia remains suspended as a result of the killing. The Daily Telegraph reports that Litvinenko's widow has called for Londoners to wear a white ribbon in protest at Putin's visit. But this is the least likely issue to be raised by Cameron: during a visit to Moscow last September he acknowledged that the two nations must set aside their disputes to nurture new trading ties.
THE SYRIA CONFLICT
Russia has been a major block to progress in Syria. Along with China, the Kremlin has vetoed any UN resolution against Assad's bloody regime. The Independent reports that this will be top of the agenda, with Cameron seeking to pressure Putin to stop sheltering Syria's leader from tough international action, which Britain has called "inexcusable". But an adviser to Putin told the Today programme that his boss would not support the "ignorant and irrational overthrow" of Assad.
Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been in jail for almost a decade. The charges against him are believed by many to be of a political nature. In a letter to The Times yesterday, figures including two former British foreign secretaries highlighted the plight of Khodorkovsky. They issued a call for Russia to free its "prisoners of conscience".
Three members of the punk collective Pussy Riot are in custody after staging a performance in a Moscow cathedral calling on the Virgin Mary to remove President Putin from power. Musicians including Jarvis Cocker, Pete Townshend, Martha Wainwright and Neil Tennant have asked why they face up to seven years jail for an incident that amounted to "a minor breach of the peace". They are asking Putin to ensure the three women, aged between 22 and 29, receive a fair hearing.
The most recent victim of Putin's post-election campaign of repression is opposition activist and lawyer Alexey Navalny, who has made a habit of exposing the corruption on senior Russian officials and was the first to dub Putin's United Russia a party of "crooks and thieves". Garry Kasparov writes in The Times today that the arrest of Navalny "puts Putin squarely in the company" of the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Kasparov asks why, in the light of Putin's repression, he should be allowed to attend the London Olympics, and why Russia has been given the 2014 Winter Olympics.