In early January the Russian government continued its efforts to extradite top Maskhadov aide Akhmed Zakaev, with Deputy General Prosecutor Sergei Fridinski stated that the British courts’ review of Moscow’s request for Zakaev’s extradition might last for years. The website Grani.ru suggested that the Russian side no longer seriously expects to gain custody of Zakaev but instead hopes to discredit Zakaev and Maskhadov. “Any suggestion to conduct peaceful negotiations in Chechnya will now dash against an answer made of reinforced concrete: ‘With whom?'”
Anna Politkovskaya pointed out in a January 13 article in Novaya Gazeta that a forensic examination cited by Fridinsky, purportedly confirming the torture of a prisoner held by the Chechen separatists in 1998, was not conducted until December 8, 2002–the same day that Fridinsky sent his letter to the British authorities presenting that examination as part of new evidence supporting Moscow’s demand for Zakaev’s extradition.
In an interview published by Rossiskaya Gazeta on January 13, Fridinski acknowledged that Zakaev does not stand accused of any connection with the terrorist attack on a Moscow theater in October.