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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Imposes Presidential Rule in Chechnya




President Vladimir Putin clamped direct presidential rule on Chechnya on Thursday, and his government unveiled plans to rebuild the region's shattered economy after a flurry of rebel attacks on military targets.


A senior general dismissed talk that a suicide truck bomb attack in Chechnya that killed two paramilitary policemen might herald a fiercer partisan campaign by the rebels, and he painted a picture of normal life slowly returning to the republic.


Wednesday's suicide attack in the village of Alkhan-Yurt near the capital, Grozny, was the first of its kind in Chechnya.


Both "kamikaze terrorists," as Moscow quickly dubbed them, were killed in the blast, which also wounded five other policemen. The rebels said the bombers were women.


Sergei Ivanov, secretary of the Security Council and a close Putin ally, said direct presidential rule in Chechnya, announced in a Kremlin decree, could last two or three years, depending on developments.


"The president has taken upon himself full powers over Chechnya," Ivanov said in televised remarks.


Presidential rule means Putin will appoint his own officials to the region rather than holding elections. It also gives him a more formal direct say in day-to-day decision-making.


The Kremlin's Chechnya spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said Putin's move would streamline the way Moscow ran Chechnya.


The decision, enshrined in a bill sent to parliament for approval, seemed set to undermine further the prospect of peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, already branded a criminal by Moscow and now hiding in the southern mountains in Chechnya.


Putin is due to name his envoy to Chechnya shortly. Media said he might choose Nikolai Koshman, head of the previous Chechnya administration, which had more modest powers.


Koshman told RTR television Putin's decision was necessary because Chechnya, devastated by two wars and years of lawlessness, was not ready yet for elections or self-government.


Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said his government was keen to restore normal civilian life in Chechnya swiftly.


"Measures to restore vital infrastructure, the health and education systems must take key place," Kasyanov told the weekly Cabinet session. A government statement said it was allocating $276 million for funding priority measures in Chechnya this year.


Colonel General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the General Staff, told reporters that progress already had been made, with new firms creating jobs for Chechens.


Asked about the suicide attack, he said: "This is a fact on which we must reflect. But I think it hardly likely that it will have any further ramifications."


He said a top Interior Ministry commander, Valery Konovalov, had escaped an assassination attempt Wednesday with injuries that were not life threatening. Konovalov's car came under rebel gunfire not far from Grozny. His driver was killed.


Manilov said 15 servicemen had been killed in Chechnya in the past week, bringing the total number of federal casualties since Putin launched the military operation to 2,079.


The AVN military news agency reported that federal forces had killed more than 200 rebel fighters during an eight-day operation ending Tuesday in the mountainous Nozhai-Yurt and Vedeno districts southeast of Grozny.


In an interview for the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, the Security Council's Ivanov said Moscow wanted a long-term political settlement in Chechnya f a key demand of Western countries.


But Ivanov also made clear Moscow expected a long conflict.


"Fighting can continue a long time. You recall how long it raged in tsarist times," he noted, referring to the decades-long bid to subdue Chechnya in the 19th century.


Military analyst Alexander Goltz gave a similar assessment. "Without any political dialogue, we are fated to a struggle lasting very many years," he said.


Billionaire philanthropist George Soros, on a visit to Moscow, also sounded a pessimistic note.


"The brutality of one side feeds on the brutality of the other side, so it is a kind of vicious circle descending into the inferno that Chechnya has become," he told reporters.