Chechen Charged With Murder Urges EU, US Intervention
January 22, 2003
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
LONDON (AP)--A Chechen rebel envoy who has been charged with murder in Russia urged European countries and the U.S. to intervene Wednesday in the deadly dispute over the breakaway republic.
"Two or three years ago, we could have settled this conflict ourselves, Russia and Chechnya, with the political will to do so," said Akhmed Zakayev, whom Russia has compared to Osama bin Laden.
"Things have gone beyond that. Russia and Chechnya are simply not capable of sorting it out alone," he told a meeting of about 50 people in a room of the House of Lords reserved by two governing Labor Party peers.
"We consider the European Union, the United States, must intervene. Whatever our political status, Chechnya is an integral part of Europe, the responsibility for what happens there is a European responsibility."
Zakayev also said, "We categorically condemn terror in all its forms. Terrorism and terrorist acts are not the way forward for Chechnya. At the same time, we are terribly afraid that the situation in Chechnya may get out of control. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the Russian leadership."
Zakayev, 43, an aide to Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, was introduced at the meeting by British actress Vanessa Redgrave.
She paid 50,000 pounds (US$80,600) bail for him when he was arrested in London in December after arriving from Denmark, where Russian officials had failed in an extradition attempt there.
Since being released on bail in England, and provided with shelter in Redgrave's home, Zakayev has appeared in court at the start of what could be lengthy proceedings to extradite him from Britain.
Redgrave considers him a key peace negotiator regarding Chechnya.
But Russian authorities say Zakayev was a senior Chechen military commander who helped kill at least 300 Russian security personnel in 1996. Moscow also alleges that he fought against the Russian Federation between October 1995 and December 2000.
He has publicly denied the allegations.
The fighting in Chechnya has been long and deadly.
Russian forces withdrew from it in 1996 after rebels fought them to a standstill in a 20-month war, but swept in again in 1999 after Chechnya-based insurgents entered neighboring Dagestan and after 300 people died in apartment bombings that officials blamed on the rebels.
Redgrave introduced Zakayev as a democratically elected official from Chechnya, and said that he and other Chechens should be called freedom fighters, not rebels, who "have been brutally, grotesquely, and horrifyingly denied their freedom" by Moscow.
Zakayev said it was "absolutely mindless and senseless" that the slaughter continued in his homeland, and that every day more and more voices were being raised in Russia calling for it to stop.