Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 10

Aslan Maskhadov’s London-based emissary, Akhmed Zakaev, told Ekho Moskvy on March 8 (prior to receiving confirmation of Maskhadov’s death) that if Maskhadov indeed had been killed, this would lead to an upsurge of terrorism in Chechnya and across Russia. “If it is confirmed, then it is just another political murder carried out with the approval of the top Russian political leadership,” Zakaev told the radio station. “But I am absolutely sure that it can further complicate the situation, given that Maskhadov was restraining the widening of this conflict.” Zakaev added that Maskhadov’s death would strengthen the position of “those who said it is not possible to reach an agreement, to have a dialogue, with the Kremlin, with Moscow.” He added, however, that “no breakdown in the structures of Ichkeria will take place, inasmuch as the State Defense Committee, in which all power – both executive and legislative – is concentrated, is operating, in accordance with the Constitution of Ichkeria and martial law. The Committee’s Chairman was Aslan Maskhadov, but in the case of his death or illness, the committee is authorized to elect another chairman. We went through this during the first Chechen war, when Djokhar Dudaev was murdered.”

Kommersant on March 9 wrote that the only rebel leaders now left are Shamil Basaev and Doku Umarov, and that given the fact that Basaev holds no positions in the rebel government, the office of State Defense Committee head may pass to Umarov, who is currently the rebel government’s State Security Minister. “We should note that both field commanders, in contrast to Aslan Maskhadov’s declared aspiration for peace talks with Moscow, are known for their implacability and belligerence toward Russia,” Kommersant wrote. “Therefore in the event that one of them comes to power, terror will only intensify. However, it cannot be ruled out that for the sake of preserving the possibility of political cooperation with the West, Akhmed Zakaev…will be put forward for the post of leader of Ichkeria.”

Movladi Udugov, the so-called Chief of the External Subcommittee of the Informational Council of the State Defense Council of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, wrote a commentary published by the Kavkazcenter website on March 9. In it he said that Maskhadov’s death “killed the last illusion of those Chechens who, in spite of everything, still believed in so-called ‘international law’ and civilized forms of intercourse with the current terrorist regime in Moscow.” “Now the war cannot be stopped; it can only be ended,” Udugov wrote. “But ended only when the regime and the conditions generating…military aggression against the Chechen state and terror against the Muslims of the Caucasus are destroyed.”