Akhmed Zakayev was at a conference of the Chechen People’s Congress in the Polish capital when he was detained. He had arrived for the conference from London, where he has lived since 2003 when Britain granted him political asylum.
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.
After the first war, from 1994 to 1996, Chechnya gained independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Russia re-asserted control with a second, 10-year war, ending officially in 2009. However, violence has continued as Muslim rebels have tried to assert a Taliban-style rule in the region. They stormed the home of the president, Ramzan Kadyrov, in August, in a battle which left 19 dead – including five civilians. The attackers specifically claimed to have sent 60 “Mujahideen” into the attack. They accused Mr. Kadyrov of torturing captured prisoners, and of selling out to the Kremlin.
The arrest of Mr. Zakayev follows a series of terror attacks that have spread across the Caucasus. Last week a suicide bomber killed 17 in North Ossetia.
The British government had guaranteed the safety of Mr. Zakayev as long as he was in the country. A court there ruled that there was adequate evidence that he would be tortured in Russia. He has successfully travelled to other European countries. However, Russia has an international warrant out for his arrest.
It is now up to the Polish prosecutor to decide whether to hand Mr. Zakayev to Russian police, or to allow him to return to Britain.