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EXCLUSIVE: Russian 'assassin' banned from UK is trying to get back in

TARGET: MI6 believes the banned man may help assassinate Akhmed Zakayev (pictured) (YouTube)

A RUSSIAN who was banned from the UK because the security services suspect he is part of a plot to assassinate a friend of Vanessa Redgrave is trying to get back into the country.

A costly immigration appeal is underway to determine if the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, should be allowed in to visit his family, who live here permanently.

An unnamed female British security service witness, who gave evidence behind a screen at a hearing of the Security Immigration Appeals Commission in central London, gave evidence about the risk he is said to pose to Chechen rebel Akhmed Zakayev, a close friend of actress Vanessa Redgrave.

Three judges are considering the appeal by the man, which if successful would lift a ban on him entering the country for any purpose.

The MI6 witness said it had been assessed that the appellant may "gather intelligence" to aid an assassination attempt on Mr Zakayev, that would likely be authorised by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Zakayev, 59, is the leader of the separatist movement in Chechnya and has been exiled in the UK since 2002 after acting as prime minister of the unrecognised republic of Ichkeria.

ASYLUM: Mr Zakayev is a close friend of stage and screen star Vanessa Redgrave (YouTube)

Mrs Redgrave helped fund his legal bid for asylum.

The commission hearing was told by the security services witness that it was suspected that current President of the Chechnyan Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose regime has the support of the Russian Federation, wants Mr Zakayev dead and that the appellant was likely to aid any assassination attempt should he be allowed entry.

However, she said President Kadyrov would need "tacit approval" from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the hit to go ahead.

The man, referred to as D2 in tribunal papers, was formerly a bodyguard for Mr Zakayev's Chechen rebels, and was given asylum in the UK the same year in 2002.

However, after settling here, he made a number of secret trips back to Chechnya during which he switched his allegiance and is now said to be a henchman of Mr Kadyrov.

As a result, in May 2010 his asylum was revoked and he was banned from the country on grounds "his presence here was not conducive to the public good."

D2 made a number of appeals, but all were dismissed, while his relatives have remained in the country.

Now, he has made a fresh appeal that he should be allowed to enter the country, to visit his family, on human rights grounds, amid claims he poses no threat to national security.

However, the security services witness, called NJ in the hearing, said he was still assessed to be a threat.

She said: "

AGREEMENT: Any plot to kill Mr Zakayev would need 'tacit approval' of Vladimir Putin, says MI6 (YouTube)

Asked in the hearing if Mr Kadyrov would need authority from Mr Putin to order the assassination of Mr Zakayev, she said: "I think it most likely he would get approval or the tacit agreement of Mr Putin.

"The Russian state reportedly accuses Mr Zakayev of being a terrorist."

She said D2 was considered significant enough in Mr Kadyrov's regime that he was given a special number plate on his vehicle, that is given to senior henchman, to show their authority and allow them to avoid traffic violations.

The hearing was told D2 is also assessed to have played “a significant role” in the assassination of a Russian dissident, Umar Israilov, seen as an opponent of Mr Kadyrov, in Vienna in January 2009.

The security services witness said he even admitted to travelling to and spending time there with one of the men subsequently tried for Israilov’s murder, which was assessed as being ordered by Mr Kadyrov.

PLOT? The British secret service claims Ramzan Kadyrov (pictured) wants Mr Zakayev dead (YouTube)

She said: "It may not be that D2 would carry out any assassination, but our assessment is that he would gather information that could enable it to go ahead."

Jonathan Glasson QC, representing the Home Office said D2 has accepted he used his Russian passport to travel between Europe and Russia, but his British asylum papers to return to the UK.

This was in the hope his travel to Russia would remain secret from the British authorities, he said.

The appellant could not attend the hearing as he cannot enter the country, however in a statement, he denied any intentions towards Mr Zakayev.

Hugh Southey QC, representing the appellant, said: "He is not involved in the type of activity alleged and simply wishes to see his family, who he has been unable to see."

He also argued that hypothetically, that if D2 had at one stage been involved, he would no longer be used, because of the publicity generated by the legal action.

He said: "If you look at the Skripal poisonings, those responsible are believed to have been sent from Russia, then left. They were not people like the appellant with family ties here, and who wish to remain here."

He also said that the car with the number plate alleged to have been given by Mr Kadyrov was not an expensive vehicle, suggesting he was not senior in the regime.

He added: "There is no evidence of wealth. The family here, I understand live on benefits, apart from one of the daughters."

Judges Mrs Justice Elizabeth Laing, Mark Ockleton and William Fell retired to consider their verdict, which is expected to take several weeks to reach.

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