P.S. Certain details of the Zakayev's "Danish case" that
Firstly, Denmark is learning from our mistakes. On 5 December the
Danes already held a special parliamentary debate on the situation
in Chechnya and the Danish Government's position on this issue (Denmark
currently holds the EU presidency), taking account of the fact that
the Chechen problem now affects all of Europe.
Secondly, Denmark has initiated a procedure for improving the law-
enforcement system -- separating the prosecutor's office from the
Justice Ministry, since the Zakayev case demonstrated the
prosecutor's office to be a body dependent upon the Justice Ministry,
and for this reason incapable of effectively defending the interests
of the subjects of the Danish queen.
Thirdly, public debate is under way in Denmark on the issue of
whether a person in Denmark can go to sleep soundly, with the sense
of being defended. And how could it have happened that the police
arrested Zakayev on the sly? When he was sleeping. And, in other
words, when he could not defend himself. A reform of the police
reform is impending.
But what about in Russia? Aside from ideological concerns over how
Denmark is aiding terrorists and thus deserves international
sanctions?... There are no resignations. No debate on the present
personnel of the prosecutor's office being ousted. About reforming
it. No healthy thoughts about the original cause of the general
misfortune -- about the course of the second Chechen war. About the
need to end it...
Novaya Gazeta Number 91, 9 December 2002
INVESTIGATORS IN A TIME MACHINE AND RESURRECTED WITNESS
by Anna Politkovskaya
Akhmed Zakayev was born in 1959 in Kazakhstan, and graduated from the
choreographic department of Groznyy Cultural Education School and the
Voronezh State Institute of the Arts. In 1981-1990 he was an actor at
the Groznyy Drama Theater Named After Khanpashi Nuradilov. In 1991 he
became chairman of the Union of Theatrical Activists of Chechnya. In
1994 he became the Chechen minister of culture. In 1995 he became the
commander of the Urus-Martan front. Later he became a brigadier general,
presidential assistant for national security, and a
participant of the delegation for preparing the Khasavyurt accords.
In 1997 he ran for president of Chechnya, and later became deputy prime
minister of the government. After the start of the second Chechen war
he became commander of a special forces brigade. In March
2000 he was wounded and taken out of Chechnya. Since 2001 he has been
Aslan Maskhadov's special representative to Europe. From 30 October to
3 December he was under arrest in Denmark under an extradition request
from Russia. Since 5 December 2002 he has been in the United Kingdom.
On the eve of his flight to London, Zakayev gave our newspaper an interview.
[Politkovskaya] What was contained in the charges filed against you on
behalf of the Russian authorities?
[Zakayev] Despite the excitement that the General Prosecutor's Office
stirred up, no judicially correct charges were forthcoming. The first
of these went as follows: the Russian law-enforcement bodies have "irrefutable
information" about my involvement in the Moscow tragedy of 23-26
October (and this was the reason for my being detained on 30 October by
the Copenhagen police force). Later, however, when the Danish Justice
Ministry requested more specific
information (there were two such requests, with official warnings that
I would be released if such information were not forthcoming by 30 November),
then the point about my involvement in the terrorist act simply disappeared
from the charges-- it was simply no longer
In other words the result was that I was arrested on one basis, and
then the state machine came into action, which obliged the Copenhagen
police to keep me in detention all the way to 3 December. It must be
said that the Danes acted conscientiously: I spent just as much time
in prison as their law provided for in such an instance.
For Chechnya and for Russia my arrest and my release were, of course,
a political issue, but for the Danes it was a lawful judicial
process. There was a request, so the machine came into action. There
was no evidence, and so the machine ceased to function. Three times
the Danish court reviewed the police's decision to detain me, where
the police demonstrated the lawfulness of this, and on 3 December the
court finally made a ruling that there were essentially no grounds to
begin reviewing the charges, that there was nothing to review. Russia
is now trying in vain to accuse Denmark of a political approach. I
was forced to watch the entire process from within, and I saw that it
had nothing to do with politics.
[Politkovskaya] But what charges were nevertheless posed?
[Zakayev] All of them pertain to the time of the first Chechen war
and before (naturally, concerning the present, there was the Moscow
terrorist act, but as I explained, this disappeared straight away,
and not at the fault of the Danes).
The position of the General Prosecutor's office is as follows: from
1992-2002 Zakayev committed crimes, but "we did not have the
opportunity to detain him," he was inaccessible, and for this reason
the case was turned over to Interpol in 2001. Naturally, Russian
extradition requests did not include a word about how I was at the
Kremlin twice during that time, meeting with President Yeltsin, and
five times at the house of government, talking to Prime Ministers
Chernomyrdin, Kiriyenko, and Stepashin, about how one year ago, 18
November 2001, I flew to Moscow, to Sheremetyevo, where I was
formally met by President Putin's plenipotentiary Kazantsev...
[Politkovskaya] Did the court take an interest in these
[Zakayev] No. Because the case fell apart before the court could
begin to consider why Russia was unable to find me for 10 years. Now,
about the nature of the "charges."
Firstly, there is not a single direct witness, all of them are
indirect ("I was told that this was the case," but not "I
myself"); there proved to be not a single injured party giving
Secondly, there is not a single civilian witness, all of them are
military servicemen. For example: I, Colonel so-and-so saw Zakayev in
1996, when he conducted negotiations with my leaders in the Zavodskiy
district of Groznyy; I did not participate in these negotiations, but
I can confirm that the man I recently saw on television, and the one
who conducted the negotiations with my leaders at which I was not
present, are one and the same person, and that the nature of the
negotiations in 1996 was such that Zakayev proposed to lay down arms,
[Politkovskaya] You were permitted to become familiar with who
exactly the witnesses against you were? Including their surnames,
[Zakayev] Of course, it should be. One of them is a police colonel,
another is a lieutenant police colonel, a major... "I, an employee
the Urus-Martan Region Prosecutor's Office..." "I, an employee
Ministry of Internal Affairs..." What was most shocking for the Danes
was that the crimes I was being accused of involved to events from
1992 to 1996, but all the testimony that the Danish Justice Ministry
obtained was dated 30 and 31 October 2002, in other words later in
time than I had been detained under the extradition request.
Furthermore, the interrogation reports were drawn up in such a way
that one and the same investigator received testimony on one and the
same day in Urus-Martan at 12:30 PM, and in another part of Russia at
[Politkovskaya] Nevertheless, the testimony of the priest Zhigulin is
direct and specific?
[Zakayev] But they didn't appear in the case. The General
Prosecutor's Office did not present them.
[Politkovskaya] Strange... They were the most publicized and serious
accusations, judging by television propaganda.
[Zakayev] The General Prosecutor's Office had no opportunity to draw
them up judicially and to submit then to Denmark for one reason: in
the first portion of the "charges" that arrived here, signed
general prosecutor, it was noted that Zhigulin had been shot dead on
And for the Danish "Zakayev case" he remained shot dead... Only
the press was he resurrected. By the way, the "shooting of Zhigulin"
was drawn up on the basis of testimony given by a certain police
lieutenant colonel, who was born in 1982, but who has been working in
the police since 1974, according to the documentation...
[Politkovskaya] But this is a simple mix-up, naturally...
[Zakayev] But in Denmark everything is subject to checking, and
imprecise testimony cannot be accepted for review in court. And so,
this lieutenant colonel, according to the report, interrogated two
Chechens (only their first names are listed, there are no surnames),
who admitted to him that they had arrested priests on orders from
Zakayev, that they had tortured them for a long time on orders from
Zakayev, and then they shot them dead on orders from Zakayev. Now
they themselves are dead, they died, but "I confirm" that these
people "told me," that...
[Politkovskaya] What was the reaction of the Danish lawyers to
[Zakayev] They had never seen judicial documents of such quality. The
thing is that the Danish Justice Ministry simply cannot go to court
and obtain an extradition order with materials executed on such a
level. For this reason the Justice Ministry itself, not the Russian
General Prosecutor's Office, will become a laughingstock in its own
country, and resignations will follow.
The whole procedure essentially boiled down to waiting: whether the
Danish Justice Ministry would receive such information from the
General Prosecutor's Office that it could take to court. A
representative of the Justice Ministry summoned a representative of
the Russian Embassy twice, and explained what in specific was
necessary for extradition. But there was nothing new after 16
[Politkovskaya] Is it true that you refused to be a citizen of Russia
during course of one of the hearings?
[Zakayev] Yes, at the very first one I said that I am not and was not
one. I was a citizen of the USSR; I have a Soviet passport. In 1991
elections were held in Chechnya, they were recognized, and since that
moment I consider myself to be a citizen of the Chechen Republic. I
said that a citizen of a country should be proud of his country, but
that I had no opportunity today to be proud of Russia, which kills my
people: what state could do to its citizens what Russia has done to
the Chechens?... In fact it is Russia that has ceased to consider me
its citizen, it has pushed me away, just like all Chechens, and the
rift of estrangement is only expanding...
[Politkovskaya] Had you ever gone to court prior to this?
[Zakayev] Never and nowhere. This was my first experience.
[Politkovskaya] And what are your impressions?
[Zakayev] A coordinated, precise machine operates. There is the law,
and that's it: they do not see what a person's color or tribe is,
what he represents.
[Politkovskaya] How was it explained to you, why was the press not
allowed either into the prison or into court?
[Zakayev] The prosecutor, the state prosecuting attorney supporting
the position of the Copenhagen police that detained me, justified
this to the court, not to me: he said that diplomatic exchange was
under way between the Danish Justice Ministry and the Russian
authorities, and that pursuant to international extradition standards
signed by both Russia and Denmark, publicity was impossible until a
decision had been made concerning the extradition. My lawyers
responded to this by saying that the Russian side was violating these
standards and was itself publicizing the materials of the case, that
witnesses were appearing in the press, but the court responded: "We
answer for ourselves, Russia for itself."
[Politkovskaya] Were you present at all three hearings that pertained
to you, or was this not necessary?
[Zakayev] I was present at all of them. As it should be. The judge
inquired: "You are such-and-such?" And immediately: "You
following rights, you may not respond to my questions..."
[Politkovskaya] Why did you therefore decide to speak out in court,
if you had the right to remain silent?
[Zakayev] Remaining silent for the sake of what? Then the situation
would have resembled Borodin's case in Switzerland -- he had a reason
to remain silent. But I, to the contrary, wanted to explain myself,
because I had nothing to hide. And I explained that I fought in the
first war on such-and-such fronts and positions, that the war had
ended in a peace treaty, and after that I worked as deputy prime
minister, and that Russia had several times had the opportunity to
But there was no trial on the merits of the charges. For this reason
the case itself turned out not to exist..
[Politkovskaya] And you would have liked for a trail of the merits to
have taken place?
[Zakayev] Yes. I was counting on this from the very beginning. If
there had been a trial, there would have been a judicial ruling. And
it is very important. For this reason I was glad when I found out
that Russia wanted to turn to the Strasbourg court in connection with
my case. This is a big favor. I am ready to give all explanations to
an impartial international court, so that there should finally appear
a judicial assessment of who is in fact a terrorist, and who is a
[Politkovskaya] Nevertheless, you now face the real problem of
travelling from prison to prison in various countries. Those that you
[Zakayev] Yes, I am not afraid and am prepared for this. I may end up
in prison in any country I visit, not because I am a terrorist, but
because this country supports me. So far I have no ruling, but I
understand that my life will now proceed in just this way.
[Politkovskaya] And could this last a long time, in your view? You
aren't young anymore, are you? Haven't you had enough? How do you
intend to act? Will you request political asylum?
[Zakayev] Unfortunately, this is not up to me. You can be certain
that I am not delighted with such a life; I planned to have a
Of course, I could now solve my personal issue -- asking for asylum,
for example, but with respect to Maskhadov, and to my comrades-at-
arms, and to the Chechen people -- this is treason. Everyone has
their own take on this, mine is very serious, I consider myself
responsible for everything that happens in Chechnya. Myself and
Maskhadov. Firstly because we allowed the second war to happen, and
as politicians are guilty that it started. Secondly, we cannot defend
people, and as military personnel we are guilty for not having
defended them. Thirdly, we cannot end the war, and as diplomats we
are unable to influence the international community so that it should
end. And so there is so far no talk of my own fate. I lost almost all
my friends in the second war, there are two or three of us left. Of
the... generation. Our generation... I do not have any opportunities
[Politkovskaya] But after all it is known that at the end of the
summer and beginning of autumn this year, the Basayev associates of
Maskhadov tried to remove you as far as possible from Maskhadov.
[Zakayev] Yes, I could have rested content, that allegedly an
argument had appeared for me myself: if I am not needed, I will go
away... But I relate to this not as to a situation in which I could
win or lose -- this is simply my life. I cannot allow myself to be
pushed aside, and I cannot jump from the train myself. Such scenarios
are ruled out.
[Politkovskaya] And who you consider yourself to be? An official of
[Zakayev] I serve not Maskhadov, but the cause for which Chechnya has
already paid a very high price. And this has cost me personally 10
years of my life.
[Politkovskaya] Which of these years were the most terrible?
[Zakayev] The second war. Beginning in 1999. From the very beginning
of it I was afraid most of all that the moment would come when we
would be unable to defend our women -- and this would be the most
terrible thing. After the Dagestan provocation I had a bad
premonition that something like this would happen. And then it
happened... If at some time Chechens take it into their heads to
erect a monument to someone, it should be a monument to the Chechen
woman of the war decade.