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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Premier Names Cabinet of Comrades




Chechnya's new prime minister, former field commander Shamil Basayev, named his Cabinet on Monday, submitting a list of candidates made up of former comrades-in-arms, including his own brother, to Chechen President Aslan Maskadov for approval.


Basayev's appointment as head of government in Chechnya has alarmed some in Moscow who regard him as a extremist with little patience for negotiations as well as a terrorist.


Basayev is still wanted for his role in the hostage raid on the Russian town of Budyonnovsk in 1995, Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov said at a news conference Monday. He also said anyone who meets Basayev will be interviewed by the authorities.


"The arrest warrant for Basayev is still in force, and whenever an opportunity emerges, police or other law enforcement agencies should carry it out," Skuratov said.


But Russia's deputy prime minister in charge of nationalities, Ramazan Abdulatipov, had already met Basayev on Saturday during a visit to Grozny in an attempt to improve relations. Heading a 30-man delegation, Abdulatipov sought to put negotiations between the two sides on track after last week's war of words.


Russia's interior minister, Anatoly Kulikov, last week called for pre-emptive air strikes on Chechnya, causing the Chechens to put their reserve fighters on full alert.


"There's too much politics and too little action at present. We came to Chechnya to start a normal creative work," Abdulatipov said.


Basayev, meanwhile, named his 28-year-old brother, Shirvani, Chechnya's minister for fuel and energy, giving him control of the republic's only profitable industry and responsibility for the vital pipeline that traverses Chechnya bearing oil on its way from the Caspian to the Black Sea.


Basayev has also decided to return two well-respected commanders to the Cabinet, with Ruslan Gelayev likely to be confirmed as defense minister and former Economics Minister Isa Asterimov to be given a new post, Interfax reported.


Movladi Udugov will take over as foreign minister charged with maintaining negotiations with Russia. Basayev has also appointed an inner Cabinet of four men who will concentrate on law enforcement, reconstruction and social affairs.


The members of the new government will be announced officially Tuesday morning, presidential aide Mairbek Vachagayev was quoted as saying by Interfax.


Meanwhile the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, slammed Kulikov on Monday for last week's remarks. "There must be no arbitrary action" in the matter, Interfax quoted Gennady Seleznyov as saying. "We had enough of such arbitrary action in 1994, when we started the war against Chechnya."


Analysts said Monday that Kulikov's outburst revealed his true feelings about the situation in Chechnya. "He is the most hawkish member of the Moscow establishment. He wants revenge for the humiliating defeat," said Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies.


Moreover, Piontkovsky said, Kulikov may now have to deal with Basayev, who humiliated him time and again during the war, in official meetings.


Kulikov's idea that Chechnya will have to be retaken by force at some stage does enjoy the support of some in power, Piontkovsky added.


The Russian media, too, has been full of conjecture about Kulikov's motives.


NTV's Sunday analytical news program "Itogi" suggested Kulikov's aggressive talk was aimed at derailing President Boris Yeltsin's plans to visit Chechnya. Yeltsin had planned to visit Grozny in January, although his illness and subsequent vacation has already made that unlikely.


Maskhadov has pushed hard for the visit but conceded in an interview in Moskovsky Komsomolets published Saturday: "I know many do not want him to come, among them Kulikov. Probably all the latest provocations are connected to this."


In Monday's issue, the newspaper went further: The issue was not about "Chechen bandits," it said, but rather a "struggle for power." Kulikov's inflammatory remarks were no coincidence, but part of a test of the "ability of the distant president [Yeltsin] to react to changes in the country," the newspaper added.