Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 142

The Russian government has denied any involvement in yesterday’s assassination attempt against Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Ivan Rybkin, Russia’s chief negotiator with Chechnya, warned of “catastrophic” consequences were the republic’s legitimate president to be removed from the scene. Rybkin warned, too, that Moscow can not stand aside from the events in Chechnya since, he said, further violence in the republic would certainly spill over the republic’s borders and into Russia proper. (Russian agencies, July 23)

Maskhadov himself was only slightly wounded yesterday when a car bomb exploded while he was being driven along the Staropromyslovsky highway to his working residence. One of Maskhadov’s guards was killed, however, and another is in critical condition. The two cars in which Maskhadov and his guard were riding–a Jeep Cherokee and a Chevrolet–were completely destroyed. First Deputy Minister of Shariah Security Abu Movsaev, who arrived at the scene of the incident with investigators, declared that Maskhadov had been the target of a premeditated assassination attempt. (NTV, RTR, ORT, July 23)

The attempt on Maskhadov’s life follows his introduction of a series of radical measures aimed at imposing law and order and central control in the republic. It has become clear in recent days that the Chechen leader is determined not only to maintain order but also to assert his dominance over his opponents. The assassination attempt is therefore being seen in the republic as a sign that Maskhadov’s opponents are fighting back. There is very real danger that the situation in the republic could escape from control.

The immediate effect of the assassination attempt was to rally Maskhadov’s supporters. He was visited yesterday by almost all of the generals of the Chechen army, who came to express their support for the president. Representatives of Russian President Boris Yeltsin also visited Maskhadov after the incident, while the speaker of the Chechen parliament, Ruslan Alihajiev, said parliament would support the president “even more decisively” and “brush away all petty disagreements in its relations with him.” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 24)