LONDON — Security services have uncovered a plot to assassinate exiled Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev in London, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper has reported.
The claim comes after a gunman shot Russian banker German Gorbuntsov in London on March 20. Gorbuntsov remains seriously ill in hospital.
British intelligence agencies are increasingly concerned about the number of Russians in Britain who could be targeted by political or gangland killings, the Sunday Telegraph said.
The newspaper claims to have seen court documents outlining the MI5 security agency's fears that Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Russia's volatile Chechen republic, wanted former rebel commander Zakayev killed.
"Kadyrov, who had been responsible for the assassination of a number of his opponents, has a black list of individuals, some of whom he wished to have assassinated," the newspaper quoted a judgment as saying.
"Zakayev, a refugee living in the UK, was believed to be on this list," it continued.
Zakayev, who fought against Russia in both of its wars against separatists in Muslim-majority Chechnya since 1994, told the newspaper he had not been notified of the alleged plot, but was aware of previous assassination attempts.
"There are more Russian spies in Britain today than there were during the Cold War," said the prominent exile, who was granted asylum in Britain in 2003.
The Sunday Telegraph claims Britain's interior minister fought a court battle to expel a Britain-based Russian, named only as "E1", who MI5 believed would organise the killing, but judges have allowed him to fight to stay.
The case is the second in recent months to highlight judges' refusal to remove individuals seen by Britain as threats to security.
Britain continues to attempt to extradite Abu Qatada, a radical Islamist cleric, to Jordan where he faces terror charges, but its efforts have been thwarted by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled in January that Britain cannot deport Abu Qatada because evidence used against him in any trial in Jordan may have been obtained through torture.