March 9, 2010 / 6:26 PM / 9 years ago

Russia urges Sweden to extradite Chechen "bandits"

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged Sweden Tuesday to extradite two men it says are Chechen separatists and accuses of involvement in killings and kidnappings.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt attend a news conference as they meet in Moscow’s Kremlin March 9, 2010. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

Sweden refused to extradite the Chechen suspects Aslan Adayev and Magomed Uspayev as recently as 2008, a refusal Russia denounced as a “political offence” at the time.

At a joint news conference with visiting Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in the Kremlin, Medvedev quickly shifted the discussion to the Chechens when the issue of human rights in the Caucasus came up.

“If we talk about the Caucasus, apart from the human rights situation there is another problem ... the bandits who found shelter in Sweden,” Medvedev said. “If we are talking about observing human rights, we also need to jointly fight crime.”

Medvedev said he hoped a cooperation agreement signed earlier in the day between top Swedish and Russian prosecutors meant the two Chechens would be “dealt with.”

Reinfeldt told the same news conference he had discussed with Medvedev the issue of human rights in the North Caucasus.

Rights activists say endemic corruption, widespread poverty and oppression by local authorities are pushing young people to join the ranks of Islamist insurgents.

Kremlin critics have urged Moscow to solve the murder of Natalia Estemirova, a human rights worker in Chechnya and a vocal critic of hardline Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was kidnapped and shot last July.

In an open letter published by Swedish daily Sydsvenskan on Tuesday, Russian human rights campaigners Tatyana Lokshina and Oleg Orlov called on Reinfeldt and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to openly criticize Russia for rights violations in the Caucasus.

Writing by Gleb Bryanski and Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Noah Barkin

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