Extradite Chechen rebels

CNN       9/9/04 
Demonstrators call
for the extradition of Zakayev at a rally in Moscow, Tuesday.

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russia's foreign minister has accused Western countries of displaying double standards by granting asylum to Chechen separatist figures.

Sergey Lavrov's comments in Russian newspapers and radio and TV broadcasts reflect Russian anger over what Moscow sees as the West's receptiveness to the rebels.

Chechnya's separatist militants are being blamed for a string of recent terrorist attacks in Russia, including the deadly siege at a school in Beslan.

Akhmed Zakayev, who was last year granted political asylum in the UK, is one of those that Moscow's foreign ministry would like to be extradited.

Zakayev, an envoy for Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, successfully fought off a previous extradition attempt in November last year, when a judge ruled there was a "substantial risk" that he would be tortured if returned to Russia. <<Terrible - torture a terrorist>>

The former actor served as deputy prime minister of Chechnya following elections in 1997.

He is wanted by Moscow to face charges ranging from murder and torture to grievous bodily harm allegedly committed in Chechnya between 1995 and 2000.  The Russian authorities have also accused him of involvement in the 2002 Moscow theater siege.

The UK Home Office refused to comment on whether it had received an extradition request from Moscow.

"We don't confirm or deny extradition requests," a spokesman told the UK Press Association.

Lavrov is reported to be planning to meet Thursday with Rudolph Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place.

The Kremlin was angered when the U. S.  granted asylum to Ilyas Akhmadov, who was foreign minister under Maskhadov during Chechnya's de-facto independence in the late 1990s.

"Granting asylum to people involved in terrorism -- and Russia has documented evidence of this -- not only causes us regret but also effectively undermines the unity of the anti-terrorist coalition," Lavrov was quoted as saying in Thursday's edition of the newspaper Vremya Novostei.

"We are far from accusing the leaders of major countries . . .  of deliberately preserving this double standard," he said.  "But the inertia is still very strong. "

In comments on the Golos Rossii radio station, Lavrov criticized calls from other countries for Russia to seek negotiations with the rebels or for international involvement.

"The situation in the Chechen republic is an internal affair of Russia," Lavrov said, saying such calls "cannot be seen as anything other than attempts to capitalize on tragedy. "

The militants took about 1,200 hostages in the 48-hour siege at the school that ended with the deaths of at least 335 hostages, mostly children.

Russia's top security official Yuri Baluyevski said Wednesday the country was prepared to take preemptive strikes against terrorist bases in the region in response to the massacre.

Russia's FSB intelligence service is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of two Chechen rebel leaders -- Shamil Basayev or Aslan Maskhadov.