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CHECHNYA: UMAROV TO REPLACE DEAD MASKHADOV?

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, March 9 (RIA Novosti) - Doku Umarov is the most likely to take dead Aslan Maskhadov's place on Chechen separatist leadership, expects Aslambek Aslakhanov, adviser to federal President Vladimir Putin.

"There were two men next in influence to Maskhadov-Shamil Basayev and Doku Umarov. The latter is the more dynamic of the two. He is also the more influential, show the latest information analyses," he said to today's Novosti news conference.

His expectations do not necessarily mean that the "rebels' State Defense Committee" will elect Umarov to fill in the vacancy. Possibly, its choice will fall on someone outside the committee, warned Mr. Aslakhanov.

"May Maskhadov become as token figure now that he is no more?" a reporter asked.

"I don't think he will," was the reply. "Even Maskhadov did not insist on Chechen independence toward the end of his life. They needed Maskhadov alive. If he did not die, many episodes we don't know now could come into publicity. The scoundrels who unleashed this massacre must be named. That matters extremely much to me. But what happened happened, and we can only regret it."

Several reporters asked the presidential adviser whether Maskhadov's violent death was linked to a recent initiatives of Soldier Mothers' Committee, as its activists recently attempted to contact separatist spokesmen for negotiations.

Available information is too scanty for whatever conclusions. As for prospective talks, they are a mere token-there is no one to get to the negotiation table with now, Mr. Aslakhanov pointed out.



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