Jubilant Maskhadov claims landslide victory in Chechnya - World - News - The Independent

Jubilant Maskhadov claims landslide victory in Chechnya

Aslan Maskhadov, the shrewd and grizzled soldier who helped lead Chechnya in its war against Russia, last night claimed an outright victory in the republic's presidential elections. He made it clear that he wanted Chechen independence to be recognised by the rest of the world - including its old enemies in Moscow.

His campaign team said that initial figures showed the 45-year-old former Russian army colonel had secured 63 per cent of the vote, a result that produced muted relief in Moscow. Although there were scattered allegations of irregularity, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe was also quick to acknowledge the poll. "It has created a legitimate basis for the new government," said its representative, Tim Guldimann.

The quietly spoken Mr Maskhadov, the former chief-of-staff for the Chechen forces, began his term of office by going straight to the heart of the issue that led his republic to split away from Russia six years ago, a move that eventually led Boris Yeltsin to send in his tanks and bombers in 1994, beginning a 21-month war in which an estimated 80,000 died.

He made clear he believed the mountain republic has already secured de facto independence. "We determined this back in 1991 when we declared our sovereignty," he said. "There is only one thing to be done now. This independence should be recognised by all the countries of the world, Russia included. We are going to implement all this, only using political methods."

Under a peace deal struck with Russia in August and signed by Mr Maskhadov himself, both the republic and Moscow have agreed to postpone a decision on Chechnya's status until 2001, although the new president made it clear he wants the process speeded up. He said: "We want to solve all these issues as soon as possible."

Chechnya, whose citizens are still armed to the teeth, was yesterday relieved that the elections had gone ahead peacefully, although Mr Maskhadov had harsh words for "political provocations" cooked up in Moscow where there were attempts to obstruct them, including a move to give arms to Cossacks on the republic's border.

Although Russia may dismiss Chechen cries of independence as wishful thinking, it will convince no one. Its troops, civil servants and security services have withdrawn, leaving the Chechens to try to carve out a life among the wreckage. There is about as much sense of a federal presence in this Islamic republic as there is alcohol in the market place: none.

The question is what, if anything, will Moscow do? With Mr Maskhadov in charge, Russia seems certain to let matters rest. Any attempt to corral the republic back into its pen by cutting Chechnya's gas supply would summon up the spectre of Shamil Basayev, who was running second with an estimated 26 per cent. Mr Maskhadov is expected to include Mr Basayev, who is still branded a terrorist by Russia, in his new government, not least because the former commander has a large following of armed young Chechens.

Last night the new president described Mr Basayev, 32, as his "comrade in arms", adding: "If he wants he can come to me and be my friend as he was before." But Mr Basayev is likely to want a top job, as prime minister, or vice president. Nor is Moscow in a position to get embroiled in another war. Its military is falling apart. Another conflict would produce nothing except more loss of life. It would also disrupt its plans to use a pipeline across Chechnya to transport oil from the Caspian to the Black Sea.

The Russian President Boris Yeltsin met the secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States yesterday, and brief footage of the meeting was televised. It was the first time the Kremlin leader had been shown on television for three weeks. Aides insist the President, 66 on Saturday, is recovering from the pneumonia which earlier this month marred his political comeback after heart surgery in November. But communist and nationalist politicians continue to argue that he is no longer fit to rule Russia and should retire.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week