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Poland - Chechnya

Poland arrests Chechen independence leader

Reuters

Polish police have arrested exiled Chechen independence leader Akhmed Zakayev, who is wanted by Russia for alleged terrorism. Zakayev arrived in Poland yesterday for a two-day congress of Chechen exiles on the independence movement in their country.

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Russia is keen to get its hands on Zakayev, who obtained political asylum in Britain in 2003.

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Polish authorities warned Zakayev they may arrest him after Russia put pressure on them to do so.

Correspondent Jan Cienski in Warsaw says it is not clear whether the Polish authorities will extradite Zakayev to Russia.

"If the Polish government did that, Prime Minister Tusk would face an enormous domestic backlash, because there is no sympathy in Poland at all for Russia's position in Chechnya," he says. "Poles are generally quite favourable towards Chechens, who they regard as anti-Russian freedom fighters."

The Russians exerted pressure on the Poles to arrest Zakayev because of concerns about the gathering of Chechen exiles, which has also drawn some prominent Russian dissidents.

"I get the impression that Moscow was keen to make sure that this gathering did not go ahead," says Cienski.

 

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