Grozny, 12 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian Security Council chief Ivan Rybkin said in Grozny today that no one can cast doubt on the will of the Chechen people in their choice of newly elected president, Aslan Maskhadov.
Rybkin, speaking to reporters after Maskhadov's swearing in ceremony, said he believes the elected president of Chechnya would be able to protect human rights and the rule of law in the Caucasus republic. Rybkin attended today's inauguration as President Boris Yeltsin's envoy.
Maskhadov took the oath of office today amid heavy security and pledged to continue the breakaway republic's drive for independence from Russia.
In his oath Maskhadov swore to "reinforce the independence of the Chechen state, to respect the constitution and the laws and to defend the rights of all citizens." The oath was taken on the Koran.
Hundreds of armed Chechen fighters guarded the 500-seat Palace of Culture, where the inauguration ceremony took place. The podium of the packed hall was decorated with the Chechen green flag and banners with slogans such as "Islam and freedom."
Representing Moscow at the ceremony was Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin. His predecessor at the post, Aleksandr Lebed, who negotiated the peace agreement with Maskhadov last August, also attended.
No foreign leaders were present, however. Moscow had threatened to break off relations with any country that established diplomatic ties with Chechnya.
Maskhadov, a former Chechen military commander and separatist Prime Minister, was elected on January 27 in the first election after the end of the war in Chechnya.
Meanwhile, Tim Guildimann, who leads the Grozny mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was back in the Chechen capital today. Reuters reported that Guildimann attended today's inauguration.
Former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev last week declared Guildimann persona non-grata over his statement that Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation. Guildimann spent most of the last week in neighboring Ingushetia.