RFE/RL: How will Basayev's death influence the military-political situation in Chechnya and will someone now appear who is capable of becoming his successor?
Aleksandr Golts: An analogous situation occurred sometime around 2000 or 2001 when the Russian generals boldly reported to the president that they had destroyed the organized resistance in Chechnya. And that was true. But the problem was that in such a war, the unorganized resistance is always much more dangerous than the organized resistance.
When the actions of the enemy are controlled from a single center, it is always possible to infiltrate it and to learn of his plans. There is always the possibility, with help and technology and good intelligence, of learning where the enemy is concentrated in order to prepared for his blows. When the resistance is decentralized, and this is exactly what will definitely happen if Basayev's death is confirmed, the problems are only increased, because it is impossible to track the activity of 10 or 20 or 50 field commanders who don't take orders from anyone and who prepared their operations based only on their own ideas.
I suspect that Basayev's death, of course, will weaken the Chechen resistance, since Basayev was a sort of symbol. But at the same time, on the operational and tactical levels, it will make the work of our special forces much more complicated.
RFE/RL: What about the date of Basayev's death? He was accused of preparing a major terrorist act on the eve of the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg. And in this regard, it is reminiscent of the death of former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on March 8 last year, International Women's Day. Can we consider Basayev's death to be another specially prepared holiday gift? I mean, is it possible that they announced the death today, but it actually happened some time ago?
Golts: I think such a version is possible. Moreover, all the commentators reacted to the recent declaration of President Vladimir Putin of his intention [in the wake of the killing of four Russian diplomats in Iraq] to destroy terrorists everywhere in the world by saying, "Of course, you can give the order to 'destroy terrorists,' only for some reason they can't destroy Basayev." I think that a decision to destroy him "on a certain date" is definitely possible.
Shamil Basayev in September 1999 (epa)
MASTERMIND OF BUDYONNOVSK, BESLAN: Radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev waged a 15-year campaign against Russian control of Chechnya, including masterminding some of the most audacious terrorist acts the world has ever seen. Below are links to some of RFE/RL's reporting about Basayev in recent years.