On February 16, Maskhadov dissolved Chechnya’s old government and announced the creation of a commission to scrutinize the qualifications of the various candidates for posts in the new cabinet. Maskhadov, who will act as prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, eliminating the need for a defense minister, may be using this as a way of avoiding accusations of bias. But he has already appointed Movladi Udugov as "Minister on Foreign Policy Issues." According to NTV, the choice of this title for Chechnya’s foreign minister reflects Maskhadov’s unwillingness to quarrel with Moscow over trifles. (NTV, Itar-Tass, February 16)
The 34-year-old Udugov formerly occupied the post of information minister. One of Chechnya’s most colorful and educated politicians, Udugov was an influential figure in the late president Dudaev’s entourage and acted as chief ideologist of the unrecognized state even before the 1994 intervention of Russian troops. But Udugov came fully into his own after Russia’s military intervention, and it was largely thanks to him that the Chechen resistance won the "information war" against the Kremlin. Russian interior minister Anatoli Kulikov commented that "Udugov alone is worth more than the entire propaganda department of the Ministry of Defense." Since the summer of 1996, Udugov has participated in all the negotiations with Moscow and was responsible for all of the draft documents presented by the Chechen side. He stood as a candidate in Chechnya’s presidential elections, campaigning for the creation of an Islamic state in Chechnya, but withdrew his candidacy in the final weeks to throw his support behind Maskhadov.
Udugov’s appointment is a mixed blessing for Moscow. He is considered one of the most radical and uncompromising supporters of Chechen independence, and his Islamic radicalism poses additional difficulties for Russia. But his undoubted diplomatic skills leave no doubt that he can make flexible decisions and is capable of compromise.
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