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WHAT WILL FOLLOW MASKHADOV'S DEATH?

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, March 9. (RIA Novosti)-Aslan Maskhadov, a Chechen separatist leader and No.2 on the Kremlin's list of most wanted terrorists after Shamil Basayev, was reported killed near Grozny, the Chechen capital, on March 8, writes Vedomosti.

A spokesman for the federal forces' Regional Headquarters in Chechnya, Major General Ilya Shabalkin, was the first to break the news. He said Maskhadov had been killed in an explosion in his underground hideout. The director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Nikolai Patrushev, later told Vladimir Putin that a team from the FSB's Special Operations Center had killed the "international terrorist and leader of criminal groups."

Vice President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed Maskhadov was dead, but suggested that he had been shot accidentally by a bodyguard.

Many in Russia hope Maskhadov's death will end the fighting in Chechnya. The deputy chairman of the State Duma Security Committee, Mikhail Grishankov, argues that now that he is dead, the militants could run out of sponsors. "It was much easier to collect donations in Maskhadov's name," he said.

An FSB source said Maskhadov, though not involved in planning terrorist attacks, had been an important element in Shamil Basayev's "terror machine." The security officer positioned Mashkadov as a "good cop," who was crucial for making Mr. Basayev's own operations politically justified.

Maskhadov's death is a blow to EU policies, says Katinka Barysch of the Centre for European Reform, a London-based think tank. She doubts there anyone else can be found to hold talks with Moscow.

Ariel Cohen, a fellow with Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Republican think tank in America, believes the U.S.-based Ichkerian lobby will step up its work and radical Islamic groups among the Chechen militants will take stronger positions.

During the first military campaign in Chechnya (which began in 1994), Maskhadov opposed federal forces as the chief-of-staff of the self-proclaimed republic of Ichkeria. In August 1996, he signed a peace deal with the then Secretary of Russia's Security Council Alexander Lebed in the city of Khasav'yurt, which propelled him to the Ichkerian presidency in February 1997. Though never publicly approving of the Basayev-led invasion of neighboring Dagestan in 1999, Maskhadov supported resistance against Russian forces as they put down the invasion and then entered Chechnya.



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