Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 37

Russian media reported on October 5 that President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who held talks that day and signed a joint statement on combating terrorism, discussed the issue of Akhmed Zakaev, the Chechen separatist envoy who received political asylum in the United Kingdom in December 2003. State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, who was present at the meeting, said that Blair showed “understanding” on the issue. “The British prime minister made clear that he is in favor of changing and strengthening current British legislation to allow more specific and decisive action to be taken against people suspected of links to terrorism,” Kosachev said in remarks carried by Ren-TV.

On September 29, six days before the Blair-Putin meeting, Russian Ambassador to London, Yuri Fedotov, told Interfax: “We are hoping the British side may revise its position regarding the question of extraditing Chechen separatist emissary Akhmed Zakaev in the light of the July bombings in London.” In Great Britain, he added, “more and more people realize that the issue of fighting terrorism cannot be approached from a position of double standards. We hope that this, in time, will help to solve the problem of Zakaev. We heard statements from British representatives recently that confirmed there is a possibility [of Zakaev being extradited], if the Russian side presents more proof of Zakaev’s involvement in criminal activities.” That same day, RIA Novosti quoted British Ambassador in Moscow, Anthony Brenton, as saying that “if Russia gives enough evidence to extradite Zakaev, he’ll be extradited; if not—no.”

Britain has turned down several requests by Russia for the extradition of Zakaev, whom it accuses of a range of crimes including kidnapping and taking part in the murder of Russian soldiers. Zakaev denies the accusations.

Breton also said on September 29 that the issue of Chechnya would not be on the official agenda of the Russia-European Union summit in London, which took place on October 4. At a press conference following the summit, however, Prime Minister Blair said that Chechnya had been discussed, but provided no details, RIA Novosti reported.