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Alkhanov Wins Presidency in Chechnya - 2004-08-30

The Kremlin-backed candidate for president in Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya has won an election whose outcome was never really in doubt. But many Chechens appear to believe the vote will do little to end the long-running conflict over independence.

As expected, the candidate backed by Moscow won the presidency in a vote overshadowed by continuing violence in the war-torn region.

Alu Alkhanov is a former policeman and current security minister who received full backing from the Kremlin. The only other candidate seen as having a chance was disqualified on a technicality before the election.

In Chechnya's capital, Grozny, the chief election official, Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov, told reporters that preliminary figures showed Mr. Alkhanov had won more than 73 percent of the vote.

The voting took place in relative calm, but many polling stations were nearly empty out of fear of possible rebel attacks. One young man blew himself up in Grozny after police blocked him from entering a polling station.

Mr. Alkhanov replaces president Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in a bomb attack last May. Separatist rebels have also vowed to target the new president, calling the election a method for Moscow to impose its will on Chechnya.

Despite the threat Mr. Alkhanov talked tough about his plans, saying he would impose security in Chechnya "by consigning the rebels to the dust-bin of history."

Political analyst Alexei Malashenko, with Moscow's Carnegie Center, says that in any case, most Chechens don't feel their new leader will be able to change things.

"I think the majority of the nation doesn't believe Alkhanov himself is able to improve something, because while they blame Moscow more for the situation, perhaps they may hope something better may come from Moscow and not from the local administration," says Mr. Malashenko.

The election was also overshadowed by the crashes of two Russian airliners last week that killed 89 people and which officials say may have been caused by suicide bombers.

Investigators have found traces of explosives in the wreckage at both crash sites.

They are now seeking more information about two women with Chechen surnames who were on the two flights, but whose remains have not been claimed by relatives.