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Impact of Basayev's Death Uncertain


Russia's defense minister says the death of the country's most wanted man, Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, will help life in separatist Chechnya to return to normal after more than a decade of war. But some analysts say it is too early to tell what the long-term impact of Basayev's death will be on the conflict and Russia's fight against terrorism.

"Definitively eliminated" were the words Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov used to describe the death of Russia's most wanted terrorist, Shamil Basayev, the man who claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest attacks on Russian soil.

Ivanov referred to Basayev as Russia's Osama Bin-Laden and said his death would allow Moscow to work more effectively in helping the people of Chechnya return to a normal way of life.

The defense minister's comments were broadcast on Russian television from Chechnya, where he met earlier in the day with Kremlin-backed Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whose father was ordered assassinated by Basayev.

Kadyrov echoed President Bush's reaction to Basayev's death, saying he deserved it. Kadyrov and Ivanov later placed wreaths at a war memorial in Chechnya and Ivanov acknowledged that much more work remains to be done in Russia's fight against terrorism.

Analyst Alexei Malashenko of Moscow's Carnegie Institute tells VOA he thinks Basayev's death may spark more violence.

"I do believe and I am ready for terrorist attacks as revenge for Basayev's death," Malashenko says.

But Malashenko says it remains to be seen whether the separatists, minus Basayev, will be able to stage the same sort of high-profile attacks, such as the 2004 school siege in Beslan that killed more than 331 people, more than half of whom were children.

A spokesman for the Chechen separatist movement said in a written statement the war against Russian forces will continue. The Chechen fighters also dispute Russian claims that their leader was killed by Russian forces, saying Basayev died in an accidental explosion.

Some analysts in Moscow reportedly suggested that Russia struck Basayev after learning he was planning to stage some sort of terrorist attack in the Northern Caucasus during the G-8 Summit.

But Chechen expert Masha Lipman, also of Moscow's Carnegie Center, says the death of one man will not lessen Russia's difficulty in trying to fight terrorism.

"The situation in the North Caucasus is really explosive and not all that happens (there) gets reported," Lipman says. "But even what is reported indicates that the situation is extremely unstable and Russia is forced to use heavy weaponry there from time to time. And I am sure that we will see more of this in the future."

Lipman, like Russia's daily, Izvestia, also predicts that it will not take Russian forces long to move against the separatist movements current leader, Doku Umarov, who has only been in the post a matter of weeks.

The news of Basayev's death also looks likely to overshadow a two-day event in Moscow sponsored by Russia's political opposition, which was meant to attract world leaders attention before the upcoming G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg.

Western diplomats from the United States and Britain are attending the opposition event, despite strong warnings from the Kremlin that their presence would be viewed as a hostile act.