Chechen Leader Shrugs Off Arrest in Poland

Chechen Leader Shrugs Off Arrest in Poland

Smolensk : Russia | Sep 17, 2010 at 10:59 AM PDT
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A Chechen separatist leader arrested in Poland Friday shrugged off the possibility of being extradited to Russia to face terrorism charges.

Ahmed Zakayev told reporters in Warsaw he came to Poland only after he was told there would not be any problems. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office denied officials had made any deal with the exiled leader.

Polish police detained Zakayev after Russia issued an international warrant for the Chechen leader through Interpol.

The arrest comes at a critical time for Polish-Russian relations, which have begun to thaw since the death of former Polish President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash near the Russian city of Smolensk in April.

Russia accuses Zakayev of murder and kidnapping during Chechnya’s separatist wars with Moscow. Previous attempts to have the Chechen leader extradited from Denmark and Britain in 2002 were rejected.

Zakayev, the current head of the Chechen separatist government in exile, was a close ally of Chechnya’s late separatist leader Aslan Mashkadov who was killed in 2005.

He was in Warsaw to attend a gathering of Chechen exiles.

On Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned Russia should not expect Zakayev to be automatically extradited.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday the Kremlin is in contact with Polish authorities and following developments in the case.

Zakayev lives in Britain, where he was granted political asylum about seven years ago. His aides said he entered Poland Thursday without any trouble.

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Lech Kaczynski was killed when his plane crashed near Smolensk airport on April 10
Lech Kaczynski was killed when his plane crashed near Smolensk airport on April 10
Elnur763 is based in Baku, Bakı, Azerbaijan, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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