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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dudayev's Death Wouldn't End War

Whether Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev is dead or alive, the conflict in his southern Russian region is unlikely to end soon.

Political and military analysts, referring to disputed reports of the Chechen leader's killing, said the death of Russia's public enemy No. 1 would hold both benefits and dangers for President Boris Yeltsin as he seeks re-election and any boost to the peace process in Chechnya would not be felt quickly.

Yeltsin would be able to trumpet a major victory for himself and his army and hope that the backbone of rebel resistance had finally been broken.

But the Russian analysts said they expected a power struggle among the rebels, which would dim hopes of an immediate breakthrough in the peace process and any revenge attacks could undermine the gains Yeltsin hoped to make.

"I doubt there will be peace in Chechnya after Dudayev's death. At least he had a political idea, and a religious fanatic could take his place," Viktor Ilyukhin, head of parliament's security committee, said in a radio interview.

Even after Dudayev's reported death Sunday night or Monday morning, an assassination bid was launched on a senior pro-Russian official in Grozny on Tuesday. At least two people were killed in the attack.

"This war will go on with or without Dzhokhar Dudayev," said Sergei Markov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"It would be a colossal victory. His death would split the rebels and could lead to people more inclined for compromise coming to the fore. This might reduce the level of fighting." But he said "terrorist actions" were unavoidable and would not be good for Yeltsin.

Andrei Kortunov, an independent analyst who heads the Russian Science Foundation, also said much would depend on how the rebels reacted to the inevitable confusion in their ranks, if Dudayev were really dead, and who replaced him.

"In one sense, it would be a big present for Yeltsin. None of the other rebel leaders has the charisma of Dudayev and those left could be more inclined for compromise," he said.

"Chechen resistance would be decapitated. But the war would go on because the resistance is like a headless chicken -- it just keeps going on and on. Some of the commanders are uncontrollable and would not want to stop fighting." One liberal Moscow politician said he believed Dudayev had been preparing to negotiate and saw only a bad outcome if he were confirmed dead.

"I am sure the death of Dzhokhar Dudayev is very dangerous for the development of the situation in Chechnya," Konstantin Borovoi, who visited Dudayev recently in hiding, said in a television interview.

"If nobody manages to concentrate power in their hands in Chechnya now -- and you understand there are field commanders, very independent people -- the structure of resistance may break down into many independent structures, forces and groups.

This, he said, could lead to a "Hezbollah-like" situation -- a reference to the guerrilla groups in the Middle East which have proved hard to control.

Pavel Felgengauer, a defense expert on the Segodnya newspaper, said much would depend on whether a moderate leader such as the rebels' chief commander Aslan Maskhadov or a radical such as Shamil Basayev, who led a bloody hostage-taking raid in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk last June, won power.

"If Dudayev is dead there will be a power struggle among the Chechen rebels. If Basayev wins he is likely to want to fight on and on. If Maskhadov wins, he seems more ready for compromise," Felgengauer said.

"No one knows who would win but in the immediate future it would mean disarray and that would dampen the prospects of any serious negotiations for some time."