Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 239

Chechen deputy premier and chairman of the "Islamic Order" movement, Movladi Udugov, has dismissed reports that President Yeltsin has been condemned to death by an Islamic court. Addressing a rally of his supporters in Grozny on December 20, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev read out the "death sentence" passed on Yeltsin by the "Supreme Shariah Court of the Caucasus" for "the mass murders of Muslims and peaceful citizens of the Caucasus." But Udugov told the Monitor yesterday that the court to which Raduev referred does not exist. There is only the Supreme Shariah Court of Chechnya, Udugov said, and it has not passed such a sentence.

According to local analysts, the December 20 meeting was organized by those Chechen leaders who lost the January presidential elections; they have joined forces with people fired by Maskhadov from his cabinet. But it is unlikely that these people can do much to shake President Maskhadov’s authority. Maskhadov’s decision to share his prime-ministerial powers with the hugely popular Shamil Basaev has created a new "Maskhadov-Basaev bloc," which has the support of about 90 percent of the voters who cast their ballots for Maskhadov and Basaev in the January presidential election. Basaev’s popularity has not fallen since the elections; he remains an authoritative figure for a significant portion of people both young and old. As long as Maskhadov keeps this tandem together, it will be hard for the opposition to gain a foothold against him.

Significantly, even former president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (who came in third behind Maskhadov and Basaev in the elections), one of those most opposed to Maskhadov, has distanced himself from Raduev’s actions. In a conversation with the Monitor yesterday, Yandarbiev said that "Raduev has no authority to make such statements… Although, during the war, the Shariah Court of Chechnya did find Yeltsin guilty of genocide against the Chechen people, no concrete punishment was pronounced."

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