Russia wants Poland to extradite Chechen leader: prosecution

17th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia's general prosecutor's office said on Friday it planned to send Poland a request to extradite exiled Chechen independence leader Akhmed Zakayev, wanted by Moscow for alleged terrorism.

"The General Prosecutor's Office is preparing materials which will be translated into Polish and will be forwarded to Poland's competent bodies to solve the issue of his extradition to Russia," spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said.

Polish police said earlier in the day they had arrested exiled Chechen independence leader Zakayev, who had arrived in Poland to attend a two-day congress of exiles from conflict-torn Chechnya. He lives in Britain, where he has political asylum.

Police said Poland was responding to an international arrest warrant issued by Russia and had no option but to detain Zakayev.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a regular briefing earlier Friday that Russian authorities were in contact with their Polish counterparts.

Russian officials have condemned the Chechen congress held to the north of Warsaw as a bid to stoke strife in the troubled Caucasus region and said they would demand Zakayev's extradition.

The Kremlin did not offer any official reaction to Zakayev's arrest but its envoy to Russia's north Caucasus region which includes Chechnya called Zakayev an "international terrorist."

"He must be tried in Russia," the Interfax news agency quoted deputy prime minister Alexander Khloponin as saying.

"Akhmed Zakayev is an international criminal and an international terrorist," he added.

"Zakayev is guilty of numerous terrorist acts and he has not hidden the fact that he leads rebel groups in the North Caucasus region."

Zakayev was the European representative of Chechen separatist president Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed fighting Russian forces in 2005.

Moscow has fought two full-blown wars with separatists in Muslim-majority Chechnya in the 1990s, which left the region devastated.

© 2010 AFP

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