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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dudayev's Widow Appeals for Peace

DZHOKHAR, Chechnya -- Alla Dudayeva, widow of the late Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, stepped into the limelight this weekend and made a dramatic appeal for peace in Chechnya in memory of her husband.

Dressed in black, the blond, ethnic Russian put on a performance worthy of her flamboyant husband for a handful of journalists. She offered to cast a white scarf between the combatants in keeping with an ancient Chechen tradition.

Issuing an appeal to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, she asked to be given free passage for her peace mission "as a last resort."

"When opposing sides threaten to destroy the other, the Chechen women stand between the two combatants and throw down a white headscarf," she said.

In the north Caucasus, with its long history of blood feuds and clan wars, tradition has it that only a woman can stop the fighting. When she throws down a white scarf, the men must obey and lay down their weapons.

Alla Dudayeva said she would fulfill the tradition "in memory of the first Chechen Soviet general and the first president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria," who was killed April 21.

She did not say where she wanted to make the symbolic gesture, but the implication was that she wanted safe passage to Russia. "I beg for an honorable ceremony and that no one who had a hand directly or indirectly in his death be allowed to take part," she said.

She arrived to make the appeal in a white Volga in the village of Gekhi-Chu, now renamed Dzhokhar after her late husband, who was killed by an explosion in a small nearby valley. She was escorted by several young Chechen fighters, armed with pistols and daggers, one of whom was her nephew. He told the assembled journalists that all political questions were forbidden.

Dressed in a black jacket, slim skirt, and high-heeled black leather boots, with a black chiffon scarf over her head and shoulders, Dudayeva presented a frail, overwrought face to the cameras.

A poet and a painter by profession, she recited a verse she wrote last May when she said she foresaw Dudayev's death by treachery and evil.

She said she was close by when Dudayev was killed. "At first I felt as if turned to stone, I was tormented, but now I know it was by the will of Allah," she said.

Two years younger than the president, who died at 52, she met and married Dudayev when he was training at an air force college near Moscow. She only came to live in Chechnya when Dudayev left the Soviet Air Force and his last post as commander of a strategic bomber division in Estonia, in 1991.

They had two sons, both of whom have joined the fight for Chechen independence, a daughter and a grandchild. Those close to the family said Alla had remained in Chechnya since the war broke out and stayed close to Dudayev even in the most dangerous places.

Asked whether she was close enough to hear the explosion that killed her husband, she began to recite a poem. Convulsed with emotion, she barely managed to finish before she fled the room.

The press conference was over after just 10 minutes. Dudayeva emerged minutes later, her eyes dry, and apologizing, swept out to her car.

Her sudden exit only added to the mystery surrounding Dudayev's death. Few people saw the body of the dead president, and few attended his funeral.

His place of burial has remained a secret. Journalists have not been allowed to approach the cemetery in nearby Shalazhi, where he is rumored to be buried.

Dudayev's nephew filmed the event, according to members of the Presidentsky Kanal, Dudayev's official television service, but even they have yet to see the film, they said.

The Chechen rebels have organized daily press conferences with field commanders or members of the government, but security is a major concern and they have frequently cut short questions.

Abu Arsanukayev, Dudayev's head of security for five years, paced the courtyard after Dudayeva left, a man without a job now that the president is dead. Hiding behind gold-edged sunglasses and watching the sky for bomber jets, Arsanukayev said he wished he had died alongside Dudayev.

"Dudayev always said he had just two bodyguards, me and the great Allah. I always said he only had one. When it comes down to it, Allah was his only protector," he said.

She trembled and faltered as she spoke, finally breaking down in sobs

a nearby village,

Breaking off repeatedly as she was c

The white Volga disappeared down the dusty road.

, leaving so many questions unanswered,