Great Britain yesterday announced that it has granted political asylum to Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev, who faces charges of terrorism and complicity to murder in Russia. According to the Associated Press, the Russian Foreign Ministry was disappointed by the ruling.
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov said the British Home Office's decision had been politically motivated and said he feared it may have a negative impact on relations between London and Moscow. A spokesman for the British Home Office confirmed that Mr Zakayev had been granted political asylum but did not comment any further.
Mr Zakayev was arrested at Heathrow airport in December 2002 on the request of the Russian Attorney General's office but he was then released on bail for USD 85 thousand, which was paid by British actress Vanessa Redgrave. Mr Zakayev is reported to have participated in the operations of Chechen rebels against Russian Armed Forces between 1995 and 2000 and he now faces 13 different charges in Russia. In November 2003 Great Britain rejected Russia's request that he be extradited to Russia for trial.