Poland has released a man wanted in Russia on terrorism charges – potentially sparking a diplomatic war. Akhmed Zakayev was at a conference of the Chechen People’s Congress in the Polish capital when he was detained on an international arrest warrant.
He was later released and flew home to the UK, after the Polish prosecutor ruled that he could not be held in one European Union country when he already had political asylum status in another. Mr. Zakayev is due to return to Poland this week, to resume the meetings disrupted by his arrest.
The Kremlin is understood to have been angered by Poland’s decision, stating that Russia had “hard evidence” of Mr. Zakayev’s involvement in terrorism and warning that his release “undermined the unity of the anti-terrorist coalition”.
Russia is known to have a robust policy on extradition and diplomacy, as demonstrated when the UK tried to bring Andrei Lugovoy to trial in Britain after Alexander Litvienko was poisoned with the radioactive chemical Polonium in a London tea-shop in November 2006. In retaliation to the extradition request, Russia shut down the British Council in St. Petersburg, arrested its managers on spying charges, and blocked unofficial “fines” that allowed UK residents to leave Russia if they had overstayed their visa by three days or fewer.
Mr. Zakayev was one of the leaders of Chechnya’s attempts to separate from Russia and become an independent state in the 1990s. Russia launched two wars in response to the rebellion.
See also: Zakayev Arrested in Poland