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Pro-Kremlin President Alu Alkhanov Takes Power in Chechnya - 2004-10-05

Chechnya has inaugurated its latest pro-Moscow leader, Alu Alkhanov, in a ceremony kept secret to all but a few due to heightened security concerns. In taking the oath of office in Grozny, the region's capital, on Tuesday, Mr. Alkhanov pledged to do everything in his power to secure peace after years of war.

Nearly five months after his predecessor and former boss, Akhmad Kadryov, was assassinated during a military parade, Alu Alkhanov was sworn into office as the next pro-Kremlin president of the Southern Russian republic of Chechnya.

In a secret ceremony lasting a few minutes minutes, Mr. Alkhanov placed his hand on a leather-bound copy of the Chechen Constitution and took the oath of office in both Russian and Chechen.

In remarks broadcast later on Russian television, the newly inaugurated president pledged to do everything he could to restore peace to Chechnya, which is plagued by a long-standing separatist conflict pitting Chechen rebels against Russian federal forces. Mr. Alkhanov said all efforts must now focus on uniting and consolidating the Chechen people.

He said his inauguration opens a new page in history in which the economy of Chechnya will be rebuilt and the normal routines of life, such as school and work, restored.

Mr. Alkhanov also pledged to continue the course followed by his predecessor, who was assassinated by Chechen separatists just months after his own inauguration.

President Alkhanov said there is no other way to defeat terrorism and rebel action, but by the path already started by Mr. Kadyrov. But one of Moscow's leading analysts on Chechnya, Masha Lippmann of the Carnegie Foundation, says Mr. Alkhanov's pledge to pursue more of the same in Chechnya is cause for concern.

Ms. Lippmann says she also holds out little hope that the new government's pledge to hold parliamentary elections in Chechnya early next spring will yield any long-term change in the situation.

"It is hard to say how a territory at war, a territory as insecure and totally run down, totally disorganized with no economy to speak of, how it may be managed by a system of checks and balances," she said. "I think there's a lot of wishful thinking behind it. I can't see how a parliament may actually have a say in a system where the territory is occupied by federal troops, the president is actually a puppet of the Kremlin, the decisions will be taken by the Kremlin's super-governor of the territory. What sort of a say [will] that parliament have?"

Ms. Lippmann says she thinks the Kremlin's newly appointed envoy to Southern Russia, Dmitry Kozak, will wield ultimate power in Chechnya, along with the Kremlin, which has long refused to negotiate with the separatist rebels. And that means, in her view, that the future in Chechnya will be much like its present, full of unrest and bloodshed.