Russia asks Poland to extradite Chechen leader

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Polish prosecutors said Wednesday Russia had issued a formal extradition request for a Chechen independence leader detained in Warsaw last week and then released and allowed to leave the country.

Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen exile living in London, was detained Friday in Warsaw by Polish police on a Russian arrest warrant accusing him of terrorism. He was freed by a court later the same day and allowed to leave Poland.

"The request was received on Tuesday," a spokeswoman for the regional prosecutors' office told TV station TVN24.

"It is a voluminous document which we are studying and we will reach a decision after that examination."

Zakayev, 51, arrived in Poland on Thursday to attend a three-day congress of some 300 exiles from conflict-torn Chechnya.

A spokesman for the Chechen leader, who was granted political asylum in Britain in 2003, said that Zakayev had left Poland because his visa had expired but he was prepared to return.

"He is ready to return to Poland for any eventual court proceedings," Adam Borowski, a Polish spokesman for Chechnya's unrecognised, secessionist authorities, told AFP.

Moscow has fought two full-blown wars with separatists in Muslim-majority Chechnya since 1994, which left the region devastated.

It is now battling a radical Islamist-fuelled insurgency there and in the neighbouring Caucasus regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.

© 2010 AFP

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