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Russia: Chechen Commander's Appointment Likely To Upset Moscow

Moscow, 3 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Renowned Chechen separatist commander Samil Basayev has recently been appointed to serve as the top deputy to Chechnya's president in a move certain to upset Russia.

The Russian news agencies reported that Basayev will have a post of a first deputy prime minister in charge of the industrial sector. The appointment was made two days by Chechnya's president Aslan Maskhadov, who also named six additional deputy prime ministers of the republic's government. Maskhadov serves also as Chechnya's prime minister.

Until recently Movladi Udugov, Chechnya's main negotiator in economic talks with Russia, acted as Maskhadov's deputy. From now on, Udugov is to be in charge of state information policy. And first deputy prime minister Musa Doshukaev was put in charge of economic policy.

Basayev had been Maskhadov's main rival in presidential elections held in January. He enjoys widespread popularity among former fighters.

During the war Basayev gained fame for leading a bloody assault on the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk in which more than 100 people were killed.

Moscow considers him a terrorist. Russian officials have recently said that such Chechen fighters as Basayev and those involved in taking hostages during the conflicts would not be covered by amnesty declared by the Russian parliament.

Russia's representatives in Chechnya declined to comment the appointments. Itar-Tass quoted a Russian government official in Grozny, Valentin Vlasov, as saying the they have not yet received an official note on Basayev's appointment.

The conflict between Russia and Chechnya ended last year with an agreement postponing any decision on Chechnya's political future for five years.

Basayev is one of the most outspoken supporters of Chechnya's full independence, which Russia opposes.