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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, March 9 (RIA Novosti's political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) - Aslan Maskhadov's death puts the West in a complex situation, Moscow Carnegy Center scientific board member Alexei Malashenko, Doctor of History, told RIA Novosti.

"Although it is clear that Maskhadov had long become a political symbol rather than a real policy-maker, talks could be held with the symbol from the point of view of Europeans. There was no suchlike figure in existence. His advocates have lost ground under their feet. If they do find a replacement, it will be most probably Akhmed Zakaev. But this will be a different situation. Since Zakaev represents nobody except himself and Maskhadov, he has no legitimacy which Maskhadov claimed", Mr. Malashenko stressed.

Anyway, Maskhadov's liquidation is an indubitable success for Russian President Vladimir Putin and especially the Russian secret services. "The president has shown that he and his secret services are in the resolute mood. The death of Maskhadov is, to a degree, redemption for the terrorist acts of 2004 - Beslan, planes, metro explosions, Nazran and so on. Now, talk of changing the leadership of the secret services is pointless", Mr. Malashenko said. Nobody was interested in Maskhadov's facing open trial, he added.

As regards further developments, the expert believes that reaction from Basaev and other warlords is to be expected. "Much depends on how relations between them will develop, whether Basaev will be able to embody two figures - himself and Maskhadov", Mr. Malashenko said. He did not rule out that Shamil Basaev might take revenge for Maskhadov's death. Mr. Malashenko stressed that the Kremlin well understands it and the secret services are working to prevent possible terrorist acts, which are not to end with the death of Maskhadov.

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