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Russia's Bid to Extradite Chechen Leader Helps Cause, Says Zakayev - 2002-12-07

A senior Chechen leader, currently in London, says Russia's bid to extradite him on terror-related charges has drawn publicity to the Chechen cause.

Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev says Russian efforts to extradite him only drew worldwide attention to the Chechen cause.

His comments were published Saturday in the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Mr. Zakayev traveled to London Friday from Denmark, where he was released earlier in the week, after Danish authorities said Russia did not deliver satisfactory evidence to warrant his extradition. The Chechen leader had been held since late October in Denmark.

Upon his arrival in London, he was arrested and then quickly released. Russia says it wants to extradite him to Moscow to stand trial on terrorism-related charges.

Russian forces have been fighting separatist rebels for control of Chechnya in southern Russia for much of the last decade.

In the interview, Mr. Zakayev said Russia loudly criticized Denmark over the extradition process, but that he expected Russia would be much more reluctant to go after a country like Britain.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday accused Denmark of supporting Chechen terrorists. Russian authorities said Denmark's decision would threaten Russian-Danish bilateral relations, and put European security at risk.

Mr. Zakayev was arrested in Denmark at Moscow's request, shortly after the Moscow theater hostage crisis in which Chechen rebels took hundreds of people captive. Russian authorities say the Chechen leader is responsible for arranging terrorists attacks, charges he denies.