Zakaev’s Appearance in Strasbourg Ruffles Russian Feathers

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 26

Russian authorities were up in arms over the fact that Akhmed Zakaev, the London-based foreign minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), attended a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France, on June 27. Kommersant reported on June 28 that during the PACE session, Swiss Senator Dick Marty presented the results of his investigation of secret CIA prisons, in which torture was allegedly used, and that in the same report he mentioned that similar Russian prisons had existed in the Chechen cities of Grozny and Tsentoroi. According to the newspaper, Marty cited Poland and Romania as the most active collaborators with the CIA, but also cited Macedonia, Italy, Germany and Bosnia. Polish and Romanian senators denounced Marty’s report, with Polish Senator Krzysztof Zaremba criticizing it for not containing enough material about Chechnya.

Russia’s PACE delegation, Kommersant reported, reacted calmly to Marty’s report, with Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov saying that denunciations of Russia over Chechnya have become a “tradition.” The “only thing to disturb that calm,” the newspaper reported, was Zakaev’s presence at the session. The deputy head of the Russian delegation, Leonid Slutsky, told journalists that he intended to sort out with French authorities how someone wanted by Interpol managed to enter into the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Margelov told Kommersant that Zakaev was there by private invitation and as a private individual, while Zakaev told the newspaper that he came in the official capacity of foreign minister of Ichkeria, and that he is not wanted by Interpol. Zakaev, who was accompanied by his deputy Usman Ferzauli and Ivar Amundsen, head of a Norwegian non-governmental organization, told Kommersant that he does not need a visa to visit France, and that he is not wanted by Interpol because he had been cleared by a court of charges leveled against him by the Russian authorities.

Zakaev told Kommersant that he found Marty’s report very interesting. “It really is necessary to fight against terrorism, but not against civilization,” Zakaev said, adding that he was not convinced by the Polish and Romanian representatives’ denunciations of Marty’s report.

Meanwhile, Interfax, on June 27, quoted Konstantin Kosachev, head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee as telling the Vesti-24 television channel that he would seek Zakaev’s detention. According to the news agency, Kosachev was responding to reports that the Russian authorities have requested that France extradite Zakaev. “We need to clarify how the French authorities let him enter their country, despite his inclusion on Interpol’s wanted list following Russia’s request,” Kosachev said. “Our response to this is going to be very harsh, and we will seek France’s unconditional compliance with international law.