International Information Programs
March 15, 2005

March 15, 2005





**  Dalies see Putin's "trophy" success as only a short term "boost."


**  Euro papers contend Maskhadov's killing typifies Putin's anti-negotiation stance.


**  Outlets conclude Maskhadov's death will "worsen the interminable conflict in the Caucasus."




A myopic policy with no long-term payoff--  Russian officials treated Maskhadov's death as an important public relations victory since Putin's approval rating had dropped below 50 percent.  Russian observers acknowledged that the "heroic accomplishment of the FSB" garnered Putin a "huge trophy" in the war on terror just when the Kremlin chief needed a "domestic policy success."   But war-weary Russian outlets, commenting on rebel resilience, warned, "sooner or later a bent spring bounces back."  Britain's independent Financial Times noted that while Russia's president "may enjoy his moment of triumph...he is no closer to ending the violence."  Russia's reformist Vremya Novostey admitted the elimination of Maskhadov represented "Moscow's first big success in the North Caucasus since Putin's re-election" but found no "cause for euphoria." 


Euro papers say negotiations are not on Putin's agenda--  "The Russians can now claim they have no one to negotiate with," observed Sweden's liberal Dagens Nyheter, adding that "Russia is not particularly keen on negotiations" in any case.  Russia's reformist Moskovskiy Komsomolets said, of Maskhadov's death, "It is impossible even to speculate on the subject of peace talks.  And that is a political success [for Putin]."  Hungary's center-left Nepszabadsag opined that given Putin's "liquidation" tactics, "sooner or later, the world will be compelled to legitimize those Chechen politicians who are pro-Moscow."  Spain's left-of-center El Pais complained that Maskhadov's assassination shows that "Moscow has little intention of looking for solutions in the Caucasus that do not involve tanks and guns."  Japan's liberal Asahi commented on Russia's foreign relations, adding that the death of Maskhadov symbolized "Putin's determination to reject Western interference in the matter."


Sans the 'moderate', no 'political solution' is possible--  A majority of outlets predicted that with the "departure of the moderate Maskhadov...everything will be more difficult."  Germany's left-of-center Die Zeit called Maskhadov the "last Mohican" and cautioned that in his absence a "new generation of fundamentalists will take over."  Norway's newspaper of record Aftenposten agreed that with "Maskhadov's moderate voice...vanished...we can hear (rebel field commander) Shamil Basayev more clearly."  The UAE's expatriate-oriented Gulf News advised that "a loss of a moderating influence in any rebellion has often had a negative impact on both parties to the conflict."  Russian papers remarked that the "spread of terror is halted neither by clearance operations nor by pinpoint strikes on key figures" and that "what is needed is an effective political strategy" to bring the "meat grinder of war" to an end.


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITORS:  Patricio Asfura-Heim


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 32 reports from 13 countries over March 9 - 11, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




RUSSIA:  "They Never Learn"


Editor-in-chief Yevgeniy Kisilev commented in reformist Moskovskiye Novosti (3/11):  "Our authorities never learn.  They don't want to see that believing myths very often leads to mistakes in politics.  In 1941 they believed Germany would not attack the Soviet Union.  In 1968 they believed Western special services were behind the Prague Spring.  In 1979 they believed they had to send troops to Afghanistan and kill its leader Amin before the Americans did.  In 1983 they believed the downed Korean passenger airliner was a spy plane.  In the late 1980s they believed (many still do) that U.S. 'agents of influence' had a hand in Perestroika.  Today, too, they have convinced many, including themselves, that eliminating Maskhadov is a cure-all."


"Listening To The Military"


Andrey Soldatov contended in reformist Moskovskiye Novosti (3/11):  "Basically, it doesn't matter whether the Maskhadov killing was planned or accidental.  The Russian authorities claimed responsibility for the killing when FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev reported it to the president and the latter commended him.  Very few governments in the world would have their special services do such a thing....  For some time now Russian special services have been interested in how their Israeli colleagues do business.  They like the Mossad style of foreign operations.  The topic is sure to crop up if you are in the company of any officer from the FSB's special assignment center for more than half an hour.  One must remember, though, that Arafat died his own death.  Legend has it that Dwight Eisenhower, in  the days of the Caribbean crisis, cautioned John Kennedy against listening to the military when making a military decision.  Obviously, the Russian President thinks differently."


"It'll Spring Back"


Yuliya Kalinina mused in youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (3/11):  "Maskhadov's death has closed one era and opened another.  Illusions remain only on the Russian side.  The Chechens have no illusions.  The current resistance leaders accept no methods other than violence.  Their aim is to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus and make Russia leave, so as later to pull down the rest of the empire.  With that aim in mind, they have set up a far-flung network of underground organizations running on private subsidies and federal budget appropriations, with government officials in Chechnya paying a safety fee to the militants.  The situation is unlikely to change because of the heroic accomplishment of the FSB special purpose troops who killed Maskhadov in his underground bunker.  Sooner or later a bent spring bounces back.  There is no stopping it by eliminating the leaders of bandits.  Too bad Russian rulers don't seem to understand that."


"War Not Dead"


Ivan Sukhov wrote in reformist Vremya Novostey (3/10):  "Eliminating Aslan Maskhadov has become Moscow's first big success in the North Caucasus since Putin's re-election.  But this is no cause for euphoria....  Shamil Beno, a former Chechen envoy with the Russian president, says Maskhadov's death will have 'many-vector' consequences.  It will give a fresh impulse to the Islamic radicals' war, protracting it still longer.  With the death of people who, like Maskhadov, went to Soviet schools, served in the Soviet army, and read books we all read, we lose the common background.  New leaders have never been to Moscow, St. Petersburg or Voronezh--they grew up in the Caucasus during the war and are only familiar with the wartime reality.  Sharing no historical past with Russia, they are not inclined to seek points of contact, which makes peace impossible....  Presumably, Maskhadov was the only one among the field commanders with whom talks might even have been possible.  He may not have had a large force behind him, but he was a symbol for those involved in the war against Russia."


"The Myth"


Yuriy Sergeyev said in youth-oriented Komsomol'skaya Pravda (3/10):  "The widespread myth of the president of a rebel republic waving an olive branch and talking about love and peace appealed to many politicians in the West.  Some picked it up out of naiveté, others by choice.  But no one could explain why Maskhadov the liberal peacemaker did not protest against Chechnya becoming a medieval slave-owning state or against his military attacking Daghestan when he was president.  To escape disgrace, he could have resigned or fled the country, after all."


"A Political Victory"


Vadim Rechkalov wrote in reformist youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (3/10):  "The Chechen terrorist underground has suffered an irreversible loss.  With the death of Maskhadov, there is not a single politician left among the illegal armed groups....  After his death it is impossible even to speculate on the subject of peace talks.  And that is a political success....  We won.  Whether the body is freshly killed or not, it's still a body.  And that is a political victory."


"Political Strategy Needed "


Dmitriy Sevryukov opined in Tribuna RT (3/10):  "Just as before, Chechnya remains an explosive region caught in the crossfire of tracer rounds from automatic weapons. The guerrilla underground is spreading more and more actively through neighbouring republics of the North Caucasus as well. It seems that the spread of terror is halted neither by clearance operations nor by pinpoint strikes on key figures like Maskhadov.  What is needed is an effective political strategy which will bring the meat grinder of war to a halt."


"Ichkeria's 'Legitimate Head' Dead"


Vladimir Barinov said on the front page of reformist Gazeta (3/9):  "The 'legitimate head of Ichkeria'--this is how he wanted to appear, at least to international audiences--has ended ingloriously.  Aslan Maskhadov failed in his chief mission to bring peace to Chechnya.  With him gone, the militants no longer have an elected leader."


"There's No One To Replace Maskhadov"


Vadim Dubnov wrote in reformist Izvestiya (3/9):  "There are no candidates for Maskhadov's job, nor can there be any.  His was a unique position and remained legitimate for a long time.  The resistance has no other 'legitimate' leaders.  Of all the known names, Basayev is the only one left, a perfect figure to compromise the idea of talks.  The separatists have no new political leaders and are unlikely to have them for quite a while."


BRITAIN:  "Cornered Chechnya"


The independent Financial Times took this view (3/10):  "The Kremlin has proclaimed the death of Aslan Maskhadov, the rebel Chechen leader, as a victory in its fight against terrorism.  It is nothing of the kind.  Mr. Maskhadov's killing eliminates the one Chechen commander ready to make peace overtures to Moscow.  Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, may enjoy his moment of triumph but he is no closer to ending the violence."


GERMANY:  "Putin On Pyrrhus' Tracks"


Daniel Brössler noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung (3/10):  "From King Pyrrhus we got the understanding that there are victories which should never have been achieved.  Vladimir Putin has no opponent who could even equate the Romans, but he has to do with a few thousand Caucasian fighters and...terrorists.  He has waged a war against them for more than five years without having achieved a great success.  But with respect to symbols none can be measured against his latest victory, the 'destruction ' of Aslan Maskhadov.  Like any other victory, this one will have its price, too, and we must fear that this will be a high one.  Putin knew exactly with whom he had to deal:  with a man who recognized the hopelessness of the situation....  But from the Kremlin point of view, the hand which Maskhadov extended was more dangerous than an anti-tank missile.  The leader of the separatists agitated for the support of Western public opinion, and with contacts with the organization of the mothers of Russian soldiers he planned to exert moral pressure on Putin.  Among the Chechen leaders there is now no one with whom the Russian can enter into talks.  Only Maskhadov had this willingness and, in addition, he was the elected Chechen president who had the necessary authority.  As of today, more than before unscrupulous leaders like Shamil Basayev will set the tone.  It is as if Putin has cut the last bridge.  With the exception of violence he has no more options."


"Counter Player"


Christian Schmidt-Häuer concluded in center-left weekly Die Zeit (3/10):  "Since President Putin has won the presidential elections, Moscow has not been willing to enter into serious talks with the Chechens.  Maskhadov wore himself out by making offers of peace and by challenging [the Russians].  He also distanced himself from terror and did not show solidarity for fanatic field commanders.  He was the last Mohican.  Now the generation of fundamentalists will take over.  They do not know Russians but only occupiers.  With them Putin will get what he deserves."


"Archaic Towards Civil Society"


Klaus-Helge Donath opined in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (3/10):  "The government in Moscow tries to convey the impression that the anti-terror fight is taking an ideal course after the Kremlin was able to eliminate separatist leader Maskhadov but the picture is deceiving.  The Kremlin replaces a policy towards Chechnya with symbols....  The spectacle surrounding Maskhadov's death also makes clear how the effects of the Chechen war are now reaching Moscow; not only in the form of a permanent threats by potential terrorists...but also the form of a brutalization of forms has taken place.  The term civil society has been degraded to a mere term without having any contents....  In the long run, the survival of the Russian republic will be at stake.  In the Kremlin, no one understands the reasons for the spiral of failures.  A good friend of President Putin should tell him this in a one-on-one talk."


"Putin's Dubious Success"


Daniel Broessler commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/9):  "It does not come as huge surprise that the most wanted Chechen did not survive.  Putin's intelligence head personally broke the news to Putin and sold Maskhadov's death as a victory in the fight against international terrorism.  That is wrong in two respects.  Although some foreigners also fought in Chechnya, Maskhadov had never been a person who operated internationally.  He fought Russians.  It is difficult to assess what sort of terrorist means he used.  Maskhadov had always verbally distanced himself from the unscrupulous terror leader Basayev.  For a number of reasons Maskhadov's death will not bring peace to the people in Chechnya and Russia.  The once freely elected president wanted negotiations.  He was probably the last rebel leader, who could have had moderating effects.  Although the separatists are apparently on the defensive, Russians will not be able to destroy the logistical structure of terrorism with military means alone.   And if a man like Maskhadov dies in a military attack, he will be reborn in the eyes of his followers as martyr."


"The Death Of A Rebel"


Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf editorialized (3/9):  "The former president was the only Chechen politician with whom one could have reached a peace agreement, although Moscow always ruled that out.  Maskhadov had always distanced himself from terror attacks, such as the bestial hostage-taking in the Beslan school.  His people were also desired interlocutors for the West, but Russia made the decision long ago to hunt down all separatists and to install a loyal leadership in Chechnya.  This 'political process' is even relatively successful.  However, even if a large part of the war-tired population come to terms with that, it cannot be called peace."


ITALY:  "Chechen Powder Keg -- EU Should Take Action"


Aldo Forbice concluded in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/10):  "The killing of the Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov worsens the interminable conflict in the Caucasus.  The head of the underground government was a moderate who, thanks to his great charisma, succeeded in controlling the most extremist groups, starting with leading terrorist Shamil Basayev....  With the departure of the moderate Maskhadov (who was in favor of negotiating with Putin), everything will be more difficult.  And it’s simple to predict that the hawks may prevail--one more reason why the European Union and the UN should make their voices heard, by breaking that silent iron agreement between the U.S. and Russia, based on the non-interference in their respective areas of influence (Iraq and Chechnya)."


AUSTRIA:  "Dead Heroes Live Longer"


Foreign affairs writer Josef Kirchengast stated in liberal Der Standard (3/10):  "A lot of work needs to be done in Chechnya, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who nevertheless expressed his satisfaction over the death of Aslan Maskhadov.  The Kremlin chief really needs a domestic policy success....  For the first time since he assumed office, his approval ratings have dropped below fifty percent.  Still, even from Moscow's point of view, the killing of the rebel leader could turn out to be the opposite of success.  The war in Chechnya, which paved the way for Putin's rise to the top in the Kremlin, has long lost its popularity.  Many Russians would prefer a political solution....  With his death, Maskhadov could become far more dangerous to the Kremlin than he was while he was alive, one of the Chechen leader's aides noted.  There's definitely something to that.  Extremists like Bassayev have now been presented with a martyr, who can no longer escape their exploitation."


"War Without Rules"


Burkhard Bischof commented in centrist Die Presse (3/10):  "Maskhadov was against exporting terrorism beyond Chechnya's borders.  He rejected waging a war against innocent civilians.  He wanted to negotiate with Moscow, so as to give the suffering Chechen people the opportunity of a future without violence....  Now, his body is being paraded on Russian TV like a war trophy.  So, shooting dead the perhaps only pragmatically thinking rebel leader is supposed to be a victory?  The men who are likely to take his place probably don't know any rules of combat, not the way the former career officer Maskhadov did....  Maskhadov's death will only further radicalize the resistance in the Caucasus."


"The Caucasus Concerns Us All"


Jana Patsch wrote in mass-circulation Kurier (03/10):  "With the 'liquidation', as Vladimir Putin put it, of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, the Kremlin will achieve the opposite of what it allegedly wants, i.e., ending the war in Chechnya.  Aslan Maskhadov was a moderate separatist.  The remaining warlords are all criminal heavyweights. T hey're getting the upper hand now, and have already threatened to continue the fight....  Even though the Chechen rebels did not all answer to his leadership, Maskhadov was the only personality that was respected by most of the people in Chechnya....  Even among some Russians, Maskhadov, who distanced himself from the fatal terrorist attacks of the last few years, was considered a potential negotiating partner....  What's really dramatic is the fact that not just Chechnya, but the entire Caucasus is a breeding ground for terrorism....  The world public, however, is looking the other way.  At the Bush-Putin summit in Bratislava in February the war in Chechnya was not even mentioned in passing.  German Chancellor Schroeder considers Putin a genuine democrat....  A stabilization of the Caucasus seems highly unlikely.  The region remains a powder keg, and not only for the Kremlin."


BELGIUM:  "Killing Maskhadov To Prevent Any Dialogue"


Left-of-center Le Soir opined (3/10):  “After Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov’s assassination, observers lament the death of a moderate, who seemed to be the only one who was capable of negotiating with the Kremlin.  That is probably precisely the reason why the Russian president ordered his assassination, according to several analysts.”


"A Chance Destroyed"


Moscow correspondent Boris Toumanov wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (3/10):  “Aslan Maskhadov might have led to a political solution of the Chechen conflict....  For the Russian government, this was a chance that it just destroyed.  But Vladimir Putin will henceforth be able to respond with more assurance to those who, in Russia and in the West, criticized him, that he does not see anyone among Chechen rebels with whom the Kremlin might negotiate.”


HUNGARY:  "Death In Chechnya"


Endre Aczel held in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (3/10):  “Let Basayev come, the well-known 'Afghan,' the well-known Islamist, the well-known mass murderer--him, contrary to Maskhadov, the West does not accept....  Without Maskhadov, the Chechen resistance that is said to be moderate will be left without a proponent, a credible spokesman.  Putin’s calculation is that, sooner or later, the world will be compelled to legitimize those Chechen politicians who are pro-Moscow....  The only thing left to do now is to capture Basayev.  As George W. Bush said, when fighting terror, we are fighting for our own freedom, so who could say that Putin is not a man of freedom?”


NORWAY:  "Russia’s Curse"


Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (3/10):  “Russia’s government and the Russian media have no doubts.  The murder of rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, who in fact was legally elected president of Chechnya in 1997, is seen as a major victory and an example of how crooks get what they deserve.  This is a truth with several modifications....  Short-term success can easily lead to losses in the long-term....  For most Chechens, Maskhadov was still the president-elect, and a voice they chose to listen to.  The Russians decided to shut their ears.  Now Maskhadov's moderate voice has vanished.  Instead we can hear Shamil Basayev more clearly....  He is also not interested in negotiating with Russia’s leaders on a possible political solution in the conflict between Moscow and Chechnya.  But through the liquidation of Maskhadov, Basayev and the groups around him are left strengthened.  The 'success in special operations' may prove to be a major mistake, contribute to an increase in the suffering of the Chechen civilian population, lead to new terrorist attacks in Russia, and cause Russia’s political and economic development to move in the wrong direction.  We worry that the liquidation of Maskhadov will prolong the conflict in the Caucasus.  Moscow ought to worry as well.”


POLAND:  "War In Chechnya Continues"


Jerzy Haszczynski stated in centrist Rzeczpospolita (3/9):  “Aslan Maskhadov, one of the Chechen leaders, is dead.  Vladimir Putin comments with satisfaction:  there is still much to be done in the fight with the Chechen bandits.  It does not bode well for the Northern Caucasus and all of Russia....  After Maskhadov’s death, the choice for the Chechens...will be mostly between crazy terrorists like Basayev, and those Chechens who joined the enemy and are realizing the policy of the Kremlin.  If no worthy successor for Maskhadov can be found, something the Kremlin clearly wants, then we will hear about new Chechen wars for many years to come.”


SPAIN:  "Maskhadov's Death"


Left-of-center El País editorialized (3/9):  "For Putin, the news that the Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov has been killed by Russian excellent....  The Russian president has now a huge trophy in his fight against a terrorism that unites Russians...over any other thing....  If no one can deny Putin his antiterrorist success, there are fewer people outside of Russia who believe that (the Russian) policy towards Chechnya is anything more than the legitimization of the most abusive strength to serve a 'patriotism' that hides other problems....  The Kremlin knows how to manage problems with Chechen terrorism in a way that leads to suspicion but without falling into bad faith....  But Maskhadov's death, from the little we know, shows that Moscow has little intention of looking for solutions in the Caucasus that do not involve tanks and guns."  


"Putin Combats Peace In Chechnya"


Independent El Mundo noted (3/9):  "With the separatist leader Alan Maskhadov's assassination by Russian troops, President Putin shows again to the rest of the world that his perception of power has nothing to do with the basic rules of democracy....  It seems that Putin prefers to keep up Chechnya as a backyard to reaffirm its power over the rest of Russia, taking advantage of the apparent indifference of the West in the face of all the atrocities against human rights that are happening in the Caucasus and under the presumption that this is Russia's 'internal matter' in her fight against terrorism.  The problem is that assassinations such as yesterday's, far from combating terrorism, promote it."


SWEDEN:  "In The Media Shadow"


Independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter opined (3/10):  “To state that the war in Chechnya is going on in the media shadow is an understatement.  It is easier for media to cover Iraq than Chechnya, and both Russia and the Chechens can take ‘credit’ for that.  Uncontrolled violence from both sides has scared away every observer....  After the death of Aslan Maskhadov the Russians now can claim they have no one to negotiate with.  However, Russia is not particularly keen on negotiations.  To the Russian government the issue is fighting terrorism and nothing else....  Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a country on the verge of returning to the state that was prevalent during Soviet times.  The media are controlled by the regime and thereby lack credibility.  Rumors and conspiracy theories flourish, and secretiveness is becoming second-nature....  Vladimir Putin wants to write Russia’s history his way and wants to handle the fight against terrorism his way.  Simultaneously he claims that Russia should take part in the international community just like another big country among other democracies.  But this equation does not work.”


"Putin’s Pyrrhic Victory"


Conservative Svenska Dagbladet noted (3/10):  “The situation in Chechnya has deteriorated after the Russian security service killed former president and rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.  President Putin describes this as a victory for the hard line, but it is nothing but yet another Pyrrhic victory.  It is not the beginning of the end but rather the start of a development that will likely result in more terrorist actions like the one in Beslan....  Against this background it is high time for the EU and the U.S. to take a renewed stance on Chechnya and the old ‘political solution’ formula.  It won't be enough to pretend nothing has happened now when President Vladimir Putin has clearly demonstrated that he is uninterested in a political solution.”




UAE:  "A Moderate Voice Silenced Forever"


The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News editorialized (Internet version, 3/10):  "Maskhadov’s killing could further destabilize the Caucasus and Russia.  Military solutions to separatist conflicts anywhere have been few and far between.  And a loss of a moderating influence in any rebellion has often had a negative impact on both parties to the conflict.  As it is already being predicted in Chechnya.  While Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov's death at the hands of Russian troops is seen as a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin's tough stance on the Chechen rebellion, it is also seen as emboldening both the radical rebels and Kremlin hawks.  Maskhadov, post-Soviet Chechnya's only elected president, was a lone voice among the separatists in advocating a political solution to the decade-old conflict.  His passing clearly strengthens the hand of Shamil Basayev, a hardliner behind such horrific terror acts as the murder of school children in Beslan.  More worrisome for the West, which had always urged the Kremlin to keep negotiating with Maskhadov, is the very real danger of greater destabilization of the Caucasus and Russia as a whole.  Even as Moscow seeks to contain the Chechen rebellion, it will do well to also seek out any moderates that have not abandoned the search for a political solution.  No one in Chechnya, Russia or anywhere else will want another Beslan."


"Killing An Opportunity"


The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf Today commented (Internet version, 3/10):  "Aslan Maskhadov's killing has taken the Chechen rebellion towards a crucial point.  As the main pillar of the struggle for independence against Russia, Maskhadov had a unifying role among the rebels.  His absence could change the pace of the rebellion.  The question is in which direction would this change take place.  The killing would give immense relief to Moscow.  Many see this as Russian President Vladimir Putin's landmark achievement in his war against the Chechen rebels.  Maskhadov was for Putin a sworn enemy who tested the success of his strong-arm policy against the rebellion.  However, most observers would agree that the killing of the rebel leader has seriously harmed the possibility of a negotiated solution to the crisis....  Maskhadov was Moscow's best chance to attempt a peaceful end to the Chechen rebellion.  The Kremlin's definition of the rebellion as an act of terrorism destroyed such a possibility.  Unfortunately, Putin continues to believe that his strategy of military pressure while placing a Moscow-friendly government in Grozny would somehow wear down the rebellion....  There is no winner in this contest of guns and suicide bombs.  The Chechens deserve an impartial political listening from Moscow.  As long as Putin avoids this path, there is little chance for peace."




JAPAN:  "Peace Slipping Away In Chechnya"


Liberal Asahi commented (3/10):  "Chechen separatists have refused to hold talks with Moscow and have instead hinted at more violence in the face of the recent killing of Chechen rebel leader Maskhadov by Russian security forces.  The death of Maskhadov, known for his attempts to explore the possibility of dialogue between the Putin government and rebel guerrillas, is bound to make peaceful settlement of the Chechen conflict even more difficult....  The West had considered Maskhadov the only agent who could possibly help resolve the Chechen dispute.  His death symbolizes Putin's determination to reject Western interference in the matter.  Increased violence between Chechen guerrillas and Russian security agents is likely to heighten tension between Russia and the West.  Putin, however, should be aware that large-scale terrorist acts against Russian interests are also likely to damage his government's prestige in the eyes of the international community."


"Killing Of Chechen Leader May Backfire"


Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri observed (3/10):  "In killing moderate Chechen rebel leader Maskhadov, the Putin government is trying to follow a model set by the Bush administration in which the U.S. leader stopped his crumbling support by arresting elusive Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.  Putin's desire to strengthen his political ground, however, might backfire by triggering massive counterattacks from Chechen guerrillas."



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