The Russians are charged with the murder of Salim Khan Yandarbiyev who was blown up after he left Friday prayers. His 13-year-old son was also injured in the attack.

 

"The file of the two Russian secret agents has been referred to court but the trial has not started yet," said a Qatari official on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.

  

"It will be up to the court to decide on the trial date," the official said.

 

Russian reaction

 

Russian Ambassador Victor Kudryavtsev said he was not aware of this development.

  

"We have not received any notice to take part in a trial and neither have their lawyers," he said.

 

In what has escalated into a diplomatic row between the two countries, Qatar expelled the first secretary of the Russian embassy late last month after detaining him and the agents in connection with the assassination of Yandarbiyev in a car bomb on 13 February.

  

Russia has demanded that Qatar free the two Russian agents saying they had nothing to do with Yandarbiyev's murder and that they had been posted to the Russian embassy to help in the "fight against terrorism", in particular "terror" financing.

  

Moscow's SVR foreign intelligence service has said it had nothing to do with the death of Yandarbiyev, who briefly headed Russia's war-torn separatist republic of Chechnya in the mid-1990s.

  

Yandarbiyev, who had lived in Qatar for nearly three years with his family despite a Russian extradition request, was believed to have raised funds for Chechen separatists fighting to shake off Russian rule.