Shaun Walker: Arrest brings old enemies closer together

Saturday 18 September 2010 00:00
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In the past, Poland has been a safe haven for thousands of Chechen refugees. Now, the country is acting to detain a Chechen leader whose past may be murky, but who has been granted political asylum by another EU state.

It appears that the move was taken to please Moscow. Since the April plane crash near Smolensk, in which the stridently anti-Russian Polish President Lech Kaczynski died along with dozens of top Polish political and intellectual leaders, there has been a change of tone between Warsaw and Moscow.

Poland has been one of Russia's bitterest foes in Europe: the Poles viewed Russia as a traditional foe, unable to come to terms with its history and apologise for the crimes of the Soviet Union. The Russians saw the Poles as kneejerk Russophobes.

But Russian sympathy over the Smolensk crash has led to a real appreciation in Warsaw.

It's highly unlikely that Poland will actually extradite Mr Zakayev to Russia, but the very fact of his arrest shows how far the rapprochement between the two countries has come.

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