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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'The Plan Is to Kill Me,' Dudayev Says

SOUTHERN CHECHNYA -- Dzhokhar Dudayev walked through the kitchen into a small living room with a confident, purposeful stride, hardly looking the role of Russia's most wanted man.

The Chechen rebel leader said Saturday that despite more than a year on the run during his war against Russia, numerous attacks on his life and a new vicious Russian offensive, he was calm and in good health.

In the four-hour interview he emphasized his defiance of the Russian military and especially President Boris Yeltsin's attempts to negotiate a settlement to end Chechnya's drive for independence.

It was close to midnight, but he sat talking to foreign journalists from six news organizations into the early hours of Sunday in a safe-house in a village in the southern foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.

Dudayev said Yeltsin had demanded his assassination at last Friday's Security Council meeting, and ordered Defense Minister Pavel Grachev to accomplish a specific military task.

"The main plan is to kill Dudayev," he said, adding that he had obtained a computer report of meeting. "The second is to create confrontations and launch cruel and punitive operations to intimidate the burning, Dudayev said. But the cruelty of the latest Russian assault could push the Chechen people over the edge, making them exact revenge on Russia and its Western supporters, he added. "As long as we have strength there will be revenge for this terrorism," he said.

His fighters' attack on Grozny 10 days ago, which he called "a little harassing operation," was a dress rehearsal for future operations on administrative buildings in towns and military-industrial centers anywhere in Russia or even the CIS, he said.

"We are at war with Russia and we have the right to take any measures we can against Russia and no one can reproach us," he said.

As Yeltsin looks for a way out of the Chechen quagmire before presidential elections in June, Dudayev is exploiting the Russian president's dilemma.

"We will take no notice of the elections. Russia has no right over Ichkeria," he said, using the Chechen name for their self-declared independent territory.

He said he would welcome a Communist election victory because it would do away with a "criminal regime" Chechens hated, but he warned Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov could prove no better. Whoever was in power, the war would go on, he said.

"We are much more interested in continuing the war than Russia, because what is left for us? A destroyed economy, no industry, no production. People are left without a roof over their heads, without bread, without jobs."

He showed little interest in the plans set before Yeltsin and the Security Council meeting for settling the conflict in Chechnya before June.

Although he said he would meet with any Russian figure to discuss peace, he seemed to dismiss any possibility of a deal with Yeltsin on Chechnya's status.

"We do not need any special status with a murderer. What they have offered us is to sit in a cage with a wild captive bear and shake him by the paw and look for reconciliation with a hungry bear."

Accompanied only by his chief of security, Arsan Ukayev, and one other field commander, Dudayev, armed with a pistol and a dagger, seems to have dispensed with his large retinue of fighter bodyguards.

But security around him was very tight. The entire operation to reach him in his hideout took the best part of 24 hours with a change of four or five locations. The last stage of the journey involved bumping for over three hours through small villages, along muddy tracks and through apple orchards, fording two rivers in a big Ural truck that sank to its axle in the thick mud, tipping sideways at a 45-degree angle.

Only foreign journalists were taken to meet Dudayev, without their Russian translators or Chechen assistants. All were searched and told to leave all but their notebooks and cameras behind.

Dudayev said he had lost count of the number of assassination attempts made on him since 1991. Russian secret services have tried all the tricks in the book, he said, including planting bugs in his car and giving him a knife with a bugged handle so planes could hunt him down.

He also said Salman Raduyev, reported to have died after injuries in an ambush, was in fact alive and carrying on his duties as a field commander.

Raduyev, who is married to Dudayev's niece, lost an eye from shrapnel, according to Chechen commander Doku Makhayev in Gekhi, not far from the site of the ambush.

Aslan Maskhadov, Chechen chief of staff, was also alive, Dudayev said, but he declined to discuss the subject further. Maskhadov is widely said to be ill from pneumonia, but reports of an assassination were untrue, Makhayev said.