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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Court Sentences Rebel Commander to Jail

The Supreme Court of secessionist Chechnya sentenced a rebellious warlord to four years in prison Wednesday for attempting a coup against President Aslan Maskhadov.

The court, which relies on Islamic law, sentenced Salman Raduyev in absentia. The warlord, who remains at large in Chechnya, said he had no intention of surrendering.

He said the sentencing by the Supreme Shariah Court "will mark the start of a violent resolution of the long-standing crisis" in the republic, Interfax reported.

Raduyev and his forces captured the main television center in Grozny, the Chechen capital, on May 21, killing the national security chief. That was apparently the basis for the charge against him.

Raduyev, a field commander in the 1994-96 war for independence with Russia, has lately been rallying the country's opposition around a demand that Maskhadov resign. The president has so far stood firm, and said Sunday that Raduyev and two other opposition figures had proposed a compromise.

In September, Maskhadov had told a rally of his followers that Raduyev should be publicly executed in the central square in Grozny.

Raduyev and other opponents have accused Maskhadov of failing to restore order in the breakaway republic after the war with Russia.

Shamil Basayev, a former prime minister, went on television Monday night to say that Maskhadov's resignation "will be useful both for Chechen security and for the strengthening of the independent Chechen state."

Even the government acknowledges that Chechnya has been plagued by violence and kidnappings. Chechen security forces have lately been waging a campaign to bring order, although the campaign itself has led to a spate of attacks against security officials.

A news report Wednesday said two security officials were killed in what the government suspects was retaliation for the crackdown.

Security Ministry officials said two of their staff in Grozny have been found with their throats cut, Interfax reported. The ministry said the killings were an attempt to thwart the anti-crime campaign.

Late last month, Chechnya's top anti-kidnapping official, Shadid Bargishev, was killed in a car bomb explosion.

Officials said Bargishev was targeted because he had promised to launch a major offensive against hostage-takers, and he had recently succeeded in securing the release of several captives, including a British couple.

About 100 people are believed still held in Chechnya, including three Britons, a New Zealander and a Turk. On Wednesday, a Chechen prosecutor said one group of kidnappers was demanding $7 million in ransom for the release of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's envoy to the region, Valentin Vlasov, who was kidnapped last May 1.