On January 1, President Aslan Maskhadov dissolved Chechnya’s cabinet of ministers and asked First Deputy Premier Shamil Basaev to form a new government. Basaev, the former field commander who led the 1995 hostage-taking raid on Budennovsk, presently occupies the post of Deputy Premier with expanded powers, while the president doubles as prime minister. (Ekho Moskvy, RTR, January 1) Speaking on Chechen television, Basaev promised "substantial changes" and said he had asked Maskhadov to give him six months in which to "mobilize internal resources" and improve the situation in the war-ravaged republic. This will include abandoning the use of the ruble and introducing a separate currency. If he did not succeed within six months, Basaev vowed, he would step down. (Daily Telegraph, January 5)
Basaev said that Maskhadov would confine himself in the future to foreign policy. Some analysts believe that the president will not be content with that role and that, while Maskhadov will to allow Basaev to manage the government’s day-to-day affairs, the president will retain the exclusive power to sign government decrees. Either way, the fact that Basaev is the one entrusted to form the new cabinet of ministers is evidence of his increased role in Chechnya’s political life. Basaev won 30 percent of the vote in the presidential elections, second only to Maskhadov. After Maskhadov become president, his rating among the population began to fall, since he was blamed for being unable to control the situation in the republic and, in particular, for failing to eradicate crime. Basaev’s approval rating, by contrast, rose, since he was seen as a disciplinarian who would be tough on crime.
Udugov to be Named Foreign Minister.