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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dudayev's Old Foes: Where Did They Go?

Less than a month ago, they were strong enough to storm the Chechen capital, Grozny, with tanks and threaten to overthrow President Dzhokhar Dudayev. But Dudayev still rules, and his once powerful foes are all but forgotten.


People like Provisional Council leader Umar Avturkhanov, warlord Ruslan Labazanov and luckless peacemaker Ruslan Khasbulatov seem to have vanished from news reports, their role in Chechnya now almost non existent.


Khasbulatov is now in Moscow, without allies, his advice ignored by all sides in the conflict. Distrusted by the Kremlin for his role in the October 1993 riots, he is bitter that no one needs his in-depth knowledge of his native republic.


But, with nothing to lose, Khasbulatov makes a point that few others have expressed: that the Russian intervention in Chechnya has virtually destroyed the anti-Dudayev opposition.


According to the former parliament speaker, even Dudayev's own military commanders were until recently willing to bypass their boss and talk with Moscow. "They had no illusions about Dudayev," Khasbulatov told a press conference Tuesday at which also he called on President Boris Yeltsin to stop bombing Chechnya. "They would be willing to lay down their arms and talk about the future. Now they are being turned into fanatics."


Khasbulatov said the Provisional Council's reputation was ruined by its cooperation with Russians. According to Khasbulatov, the council's prime minister, Salambek Khadzhiyev, openly told other opposition leaders that tanks for the failed Nov. 25 attack on Grozny had been given to him by the Russian government, which demanded victory.


"Now look what they have won," Khasbulatov said. "No one even hears about them anymore."


Said-Akhmed Azizov, head of the Chechen Council of Elders, recently told reporters in Moscow that the Provisional Council was totally discredited when its fighters were seen accompanying Russian tank columns advancing on Grozny.


"Who would support them when people saw them walking next to Russian tanks?" Azizov said.


While Avturkhanov and his allies are still holed up in Nadterechnoye, the village from which they have been operating since September, Azizov said several hundred people from the area had swung back to Dudayev after the Russian attack. The Provisional Council, after the defeat of the November offensive, has lost most of its military strength and is scorned by Chechens.


Even Labazanov, of the white Mercedes and the bold guerrilla raids, who cooperated closely with Avturkhanov, is now calling him "scum." But he is tied by an oath to take revenge on Dudayev for killing some of his relatives, and Labazanov has vowed to fight both the Russians and the Chechen president.


There appears to be no leader in Chechnya with a flawless enough reputation to successfully oppose Dudayev.


Federation Council speaker Vladimir Shumeiko recently said he would like to see former leader Doku Zavgayev, ousted by Dudayev in 1991, reinstated as a provisional ruler. But Khasbulatov said Chechens would be distrustful of any leader brought to power by Russia.