Tue, Apr 03, 2012 - Page 6 News List

UK claims to have uncovered Chechen plot to murder exile

THREAT:The government is asking a court to have a former Chechen solider deported, saying he poses a lethal threat to a political rival of Chechnya’s leader

NY Times News Service, LONDON

The British government and intelligence services have said “a henchman” of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is seeking to assassinate a prominent exiled Chechen politician in London, according to court documents revealed on Sunday.

The subject is a 45-year-old Chechen-born former elite soldier who is referred to only as E1 in the documents. Over the weekend, government lawyers, who were asking to deport him, told judges in London that he was a threat to national security and had been implicated in a 2009 assassination on behalf of Kadyrov in Vienna.

Though he has had permission to live in the UK with his family since 2003, he should now be removed, they said, because he has demonstrated a willingness to “undertake actions” that would “put at risk the life” of a political rival to Kadyrov, Akhmed Zakayev, who was granted asylum in London in 2003.

The precise details of the allegations remain classified.

Documents from the ongoing proceedings refer to assessments supplied by the British intelligence services.

According to the judges’ summary, the intelligence services concluded that Kadyrov, who has a tenuous grip on a fractious republic and is backed by Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin, was likely responsible for the killings of at least three rivals in Moscow, Dubai and Vienna in 2008 and 2009, and for the attempted assassination of a fourth man.

Lawyers for E1 and representatives of the Chechen government did not immediately respond to messages on Sunday seeking comment.

The allegations came just days after a former Russian banker, German Gorbuntsov, was shot in east London on March 20. Scotland Yard has said it is treating the case as an attempted murder.

London has a large, wealthy and politically active community of expatriate Russians and has been rife with speculation that the attack on Gorbuntsov was motivated by a Muscovite feud that spilled over into London.

The city was captivated, too, by the case of Alexander Litvinenko — an exiled former KGB agent who died in November 2006 after being poisoned with a radioactive isotope, polonium 210.

A British intelligence official, who did not want to be identified outlining classified discussions, described deep concern within the British domestic intelligence service, MI5, over Russian subterfuge in London. In recent months, MI5 has moved more officers into Russian-related inquiries.

“They are throwing resources at it,” the official said, declining to specify numbers.

Zakayev, a dashing former actor who is a self-described separatist leader, told the Sunday Telegraph that he believes “there are more Russian spies in Britain today than there were during the Cold War.”

“Nothing will change until Vladimir Putin loses his position in Russia. They will continue to attempt to harm me, and all their political enemies,” he added.

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