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Saturday, 2 November, 2002, 16:11 GMT
Russia pushes for Chechen extradition
Protesters outside the Danish embassy in Moscow
Protesters marched on the Danish embassy in Moscow
Russia has promised to provide more information to secure the extradition of Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev from Denmark, where he has been held since Wednesday.

Moscow accuses Mr Zakayev - a senior aide to the last elected Chechen President, Aslan Maskhadov - of involvement in a hostage-taking at a Moscow theatre last month.


This [breakaway rebel] group decided and organised everything all by itself - we don't have any control over such people

Ahmed Zakayev
Denmark rejected an extradition request on Friday saying there was insufficient evidence to deport Mr Zakayev, who was detained at the request of the Russian authorities.

The Danish rejection came as a Chechen warlord, Shamil Basayev, said he was responsible for the theatre siege which ended with the deaths of about 115 hostages and 50 rebels when Russian force stormed the building.

Mr Basayev also tendered his resignation from the rebel leadership and asked Mr Maskhadov for his forgiveness for not informing him of the operation.

Zakayev denial

Protesters marched on the Danish Embassy in Moscow on Saturday to demand the extradition of Mr Zakayev.

Akhmed Zakayev
Zakayev denies any involvement in the Moscow theatre raid
Moscow issued the extradition request after a Chechen suicide squad seized a packed Moscow theatre and took more than 800 people hostage, threatening to kill them if Russia did not withdraw its forces from Chechnya immediately.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Russia's state prosecutor's office said Moscow would provide documents showing that the Chechen envoy was involved in terrorist activities.

In an interview with the German magazine Focus conducted before his arrest, Mr Zakayev denied any involvement in the Moscow theatre raid, blaming a breakaway group of rebels.

"This group decided and organised everything all by itself. We don't have any control over such people. That is why the situation could skid out of control. I don't rule out other similar actions," he told the magazine, due to appear on Monday.

Warlord's threats

In a statement carried by the main Chechen rebel website Kavkaz-Tsentr, Mr Basayev defended the hostage-taking for giving "all Russians a first-hand insight into all the charms of the war unleashed by Russia and take it back to where it originated from".

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev
Basayev has threatened more Chechen rebel attacks
The veteran warlord, who made his mark by personally leading a hostage-taking raid on the Russian town of Budyonnovsk in 1995 in which over 100 civilians died, said that in future Chechen rebels would "not make any demands and not take hostages".

Their "main goal will be destroying the enemy and exacting maximum damage", he said in his statement.

He asked Mr Maskhadov, the Chechen separatist leader ousted by Russian troops in 1999, to relieve him of all his posts except for command of the "Riyadus-Salikhin reconnaissance and sabotage battalion of shahids [martyrs]".

The Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, dismissed the statement, saying that Mr Basayev was "trying to shield Maskhadov from blame, to save him for further political games".

Mr Maskhadov has denied any involvement in the Moscow hostage raid and denounced attacks on civilians.


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See also:

30 Sep 99 | Europe
24 Oct 02 | Europe
30 Oct 02 | Europe
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30 Oct 02 | Europe
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