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Akhmed Zakayev

Chechen opposition prime minister and rights advocate

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Akhmed Zakayev is the former prime minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Zakayev was first trained as an actor and became the chairman of the Chechen Union of Theatrical Actors in 1991. A veteran of the First Chechen War, Zakayev was one of the signatories of the Chechen-Russian peace treaty when it was signed in 1997 and served as Chechen deputy prime minister after the war. When Russia attempted to implicate him in the planning of the Moscow theater siege in 2002, a British court refused to extradite Zakayev—who was living with his family in exile in the U.K.—stating that his life would be at risk if he returned to Russia. He was granted political asylum in 2003. Zakayev leads an alternative political movement that rejects the violent Chechen Islamist insurgency and the Russian-backed Chechen government of Ramzan Kadyrov. It was discovered in 2008 that Zakayev was targeted for assassination along with friend and acquaintance, Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by polonium-210 poisoning in 2006. Still exiled to the U.K., Zakayev continues to be highly critical of Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov through public protests, commentary, and social media. He recently participated in public protests objecting to Russia’s involvement in the the Syrian war.

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