Lugovoy's patron says Britons are cheats, bandits

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MOSCOW, Sep 18 (Reuters) Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky today said Britain was a nation of cheats and bandits, and had no right to seek the handover of Andrei Lugovoy, a candidate standing for Zhirinovsky's party.

Lugovoy, a former KGB officer, is wanted by London on suspicion of killing Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko. He will be a candidate for Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party in December parliamentary elections.

Sitting next to Zhirinovsky at a news briefing, Lugovoy disavowed a statement yesterday that he would like to become president, saying: ''Vladimir Volfovich (Zhirinovsky) has all the qualities for the job''.

Minutes later Zhirinovsky -- known for his flamboyant and sometimes violent rhetoric - flew into a temper when a Western journalist mentioned the murder of Litvinenko.

''Britain, you keep the whole world soaked in blood, the whole world will hate you,'' yelled Zhirinovsky, who is also a deputy speaker of the Duma lower house of Russia's parliament.

Litvinenko died in a London hospital on November 23 after receiving a dose of radioactive polonium-210, a rare and highly toxic isotope. Lugovoy has always said he was innocent.

Zhirinovsky said London could not prosecute Lugovoy because Britain itself was providing a safe haven for Kremlin opponents such as tycoon Boris Berezovsky. ''You cover cheats, extremists and criminals,'' he said.

''You are all accomplices, all of you are similar bandits and criminals, your whole government, together with your Queen,'' he said, adding his party was ''most loved by ordinary Russians'' and would score a fifth of all seats in the next Duma.

He blamed Britain for backing Bolsheviks during the 1917 Russian revolution, financing Chechen rebels and opening the second front too late during World War Two.

''Half of your embassy should be thrown out of Moscow,'' he barked at the reporter representing a U.S. media outlet. ''They are not diplomats, all of them are spies ... You in Britain are good-for-nothing, you only plundered Europe.'' He said if parties like his win in the election, ''new Russia will be alright, all will be calm and quiet''.

''Britain will disappear under the water one day,'' he said.

''And it will serve you right ... Even your sheep die every day and every hour due to your sickening British policies.'' LDPR, headed by Zhirinovsky since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, has 30 seats in the 450-seat Duma.

REUTERS ARB VC1915

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