The Russian Foreign Ministry suffered another diplomatic defeat last week in its continuing campaign to pressure western countries to classify separatist Chechen diplomat Akhmed Zakaev as an “international terrorist.” Zakaev spent four days in Norway, during which Moscow sent an indignant message to the Norwegian authorities demanding his arrest and extradition. According to a June 12 article on the Gazeta.ru website, the Norwegian government did not even dignify that message with a reply.
Zakaev, who serves as the representative to Europe of Aslan Maskhadov’s underground separatist government, appeared before a public session of the Norwegian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and met with human-rights groups such as the Norwegian branch of the Helsinki Committee. He also gave several interviews to the Norwegian mass media. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by calling the visit “a provocative maneuver by those forces which do not welcome the positive tendencies in the development of Russian-Norwegian political dialogue and cooperation.” The Ministry also linked Zakaev to the recent assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov, and stated that Norway was obliged “as a participant in the anti-terrorist coalition” to arrest him.
What Moscow ignored, of course, is that its charges against Zakaev and quest for his extradition have already been exhaustively considered by a British court and completely rejected. (See Chechnya Weekly, November 19, 2003.) Since that court decision last autumn, Zakaev has renewed his activity as an international representative of the secessionist government, visiting Denmark and Germany from his current base in London. Norway has now become the fourth country to reject Moscow’s extradition demands.
Symbolically, one of Zakaev’s stops on his visit to Norway was the site where Vidkun Quisling was executed in 1945 after the country was liberated from Nazi occupation. Both he and some of his hosts explicitly likened Quisling, who headed Norway’s wartime pro-Nazi puppet government, to the late Akhmad Kadyrov—a comparison sure to infuriate Moscow even further.