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Chechnya: Russia Condemns Britian For Releasing Zakaev

London, 6 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has reacted angrily to a British court's decision to release top Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakaev (pictured), wanted by Moscow for alleged terrorist activities. Acting on a request from Russia, British police arrested Zakaev as he flew into London's Heathrow Airport yesterday. He was questioned and later released on bail pending an extradition hearing next week at a London court.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov asked today how British authorities would have acted if another suspected terrorist -- Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- had turned up in London.

On 3 December, Zakaev was released in Denmark after more than a month in custody because a court refused a Russian appeal for extradition, citing a lack of evidence. Russia criticized Denmark, saying it failed to do its part in the war against terrorism. The Kremlin's top spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, said Russia will continue to fight for Zakaev's extradition wherever he is.

"The change of Mr. Zakaev's whereabouts does not and cannot change the accusations that Russia is bringing against Zakaev for the crimes he has committed. So wherever Mr. Zakaev is staying, as the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has already stated, Russia will demand his extradition."

Earlier today, Zakaev denied reports he is seeking political asylum in Britain. Zakaev told the AFP news agency that he is in contact with Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov and that he will consult with him on what to do next.