ROAR: Zakayev’s case may affect Russia’s relations with Poland, Belarus

The decision of a Polish court not to consider the extradition of Akhmed Zakayev may become one of the most serious tests for Polish-Russian relations, analysts believe.

A Warsaw court has rejected the claim

to detain Zakayev, one of the Chechen militants wanted by the Russian authorities, referring to his status of a political refugee provided by Britain.

Zakayev arrived to Poland last week to take part in the so-called international Chechen congress. He was put on a wanted list in Russia in 2001 after he was accused of murders, kidnapping, organizing an armed riot, and terrorism.

He is considered the last outstanding leader of Chechen militants abroad, Vedomosti daily said. His extradition to Russia would do away with the idea of the self-proclaimed Ichkeria Republic, the paper noted.

The Polish rejection to consider the extradition may affect relations between Moscow and Warsaw and the date of the Russian president’s visit to Poland. Dmitry Medvedev was expected to visit Poland in December, Vremya Novostey daily noted, citing Polish media.

Recently, the present Polish authorities have stressed their “determination to develop relations with Russia,” the paper said. The Chechen congress itself and its unexpected guest “was a headache” for the country’s leadership, it added. The Polish government has nothing to do with the congress, representatives of the Polish Foreign Ministry told the daily.

Moreover, the ministry rejected requests of the Polish parliamentarians to comment on the event on the “grounds that the congress had been organized by the government which we do not recognize and will never recognize,” the paper said.

However, it is known that some Polish deputies in the European parliament promoted the congress and even took part in its work, Vremya Novostey said.

Polish dissident and opposition activist Adam Borovski was one of the organizers and the main newsmaker of the Chechen congress, the paper said. “This founder and chairman of the so-called committee ‘Poland-Chechenia’ calls himself an honorary consul of the Chechen Republic in Poland,” the paper noted.

The Polish Foreign Ministry has described him as “self-proclaimed, because he is not on the consuls’ list and has never been accredited by the ministry,” the paper said.

“The Zakayev case overshadowed the whole proceedings of the congress,” the daily noted, adding that the court in Warsaw “took into account the previous rejections of extradition of courts in Copenhagen and London.” “Without a doubt, the decision of the authorities of one of the EU member states is effective on the territory of the whole European Union,” the court stressed.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily agrees that the Zakayev case will be a test for the Poland-Russian relations. “Some Polish analysts have assumed that the decision to release an individual accused of terrorism is politically motivated,” the paper said.

The situation with the detention in Denmark in 2002 has been now repeated in Poland,” the paper said. Then he spent 34 days under arrest, after which Denmark rejected Moscow’s request for his extradition. “Protesting against that decision, then-President Vladimir Putin cancelled a visit to the Russia-EU summit which was to be held in the Danish capital,” the paper said.

“Now the Russian leadership is unlikely to strain the mended relations with Poland due to the incident with Zakayev and may try to downgrade its importance,” the paper said. “However, a conflict scenario may be also repeated, and in that case Moscow may lay claim to Poland, request Zakayev’s extradition and suspend Medvedev’s visit,” the paper said.

The Polish authorities may find themselves in an even more awkward position as Zakayev wants to renew his Polish visa and return to the country.

Meanwhile, this case may also affect the relations between Moscow and Minsk. On Saturday, the first channel of the Belarusian television showed a report about the Chechen congress in Poland, describing Zakayev “the head of the unrecognized republic,” Gazeta.ru online newspaper said.

Belarusian TV also called him “a rebellious Chechen,” but did not mention terrorism, of which the Russian authorities accuse him, the paper said.

The report had been shown before the Polish court made its decision, and Belarusian journalists assumed that “the Poles will treat Zakayev according to the law and will not extradite him to Russia,” the paper noted.

Earlier, Belarusian television adhered to Russia’s official position in covering activities of the Chechen militants. However, the TV report stressed that “the geopolitical situation has already changed considerably.” Relations between Minsk and Moscow have been strained recently.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT