ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz called on Russia on Thursday to hand over fugitive Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan–who Ankara says has fled to Moscow.
Russia–however–denied any knowledge of his presence.
Yilmaz told reporters at a cabinet meeting he believed Ocalan–who has headed an armed separatist campaign in southeastern Turkey for over 14 years–had been in Moscow for over a week–since fleeing Syria.
"It is our desire that Russia…block the activities of the separatist organization’s leader and hand him over to us," Yilmaz said.
In Moscow–a foreign ministry spokesman’said he had no information that the rebel chief was on Russian soil.
Asked to clarify–a Russian foreign ministry spokesman referred reporters to a statement from Tuesday in which the ministry denied any knowledge of Ocalan’s presence.
Turkish media have reported that Ocalan is living in the industrial suburb of Odintsovo outside Moscow.
Rezo Lazgiyan–deputy editor of New Road–a small Kurdish newspaper in Armenia’s capital Yerevan–told Reuters by telephone he had interviewed a spokesman for Ocalan this week.
He quoted the spokesman as saying there was no truth to the reports that Ocalan was in Russia.
Certainly the capture of Ocalan–known as "Apo," would be seen as a triumph by both the Turkish military and the political establishment. His personal role in sustaining a campaign that has cost some 29,000 lives and drained state resources–is great. Ocalan–50–founded the guerrillas group in the 1970s.
Despite Russian denials–a Turkish government spokesman’said talks were under way with Moscow for the handover of Ocalan. But there was no general extradition treaty between the two states.
Media reports suggest Ocalan flew to Moscow from Damascus via Larnaca in southern Cyprus and is now living in a village called Odintsovo outside the Russian capital.