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Russia 'paid $10m for Maskhadov'

Maskhadov was Chechnya's president after the Russian military withdrew from the republic.
Do you agree with Russia's reported payment of $10 million for information leading to the death of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov?
Vladimir V. Putin
Aslan Maskhadov

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian Security Services paid $10 million for information leading to the death of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, a representative for Russia's FSB intelligence agency said Tuesday.

Maskhadov was killed a week ago during a special operation in Chechnya.

He had been a symbol of Chechen independence and a leader in Chechnya's movement to break away from Russia.

His death was considered a blow to the rebel movement, even though Maskhadov was thought to have lost influence in recent years in what has become a more militant national rebellion.

On February 8, Russian TV showed pictures of a body identified as Maskhadov's. Reports said he was killed in Tolstoy-Yurt, a Chechen village, while hiding in a bunker.

Under Maskhadov's leadership, Chechen rebel forces won many battles against Russian forces sent to crush them in December 1994, but the rebels did not win independence from Russia.

In 1997, Maskhadov and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed an agreement promising an end to 400 years of conflict between Moscow and the region.

Moscow, however, still insisted the region was part of the Russian Federation. Maskhadov became a candidate for Chechen president, running against the more radical Shamil Basayev, a field commander with a popular following.

Maskhadov won a landslide victory in January 1997, swearing "to reinforce the independence of the Chechen state."

The election was declared fair by international monitors. Yeltsin sent his congratulations, and Russia said it wanted to rebuild relations with Chechnya.

But Russia still refused to recognize Chechnya's claim of independence.

Maskhadov worked with Basayev until 1998, when Basayev established a network of military officers that soon devolved into rival warlords.

Chechen rebel forces crossed into Dagestan in 1999, and Moscow held Chechens responsible for a wave of bomb attacks across Russia.

Russia sent troops back into the republic, described Maskhadov's government as unlawful, and tried to build support for a parliament made up of Chechens in exile.

During fierce fighting, Maskhadov's government was removed from power and a pro-Moscow administration was set up.

After a deadly siege at a theater in Moscow in October 2002, Russian President Vladimir Putin ruled out talks with what he called "terrorists," including Maskhadov.

Putin said the separatist leader had "led Chechnya to economic collapse, hunger, and the total destruction of the spiritual and social sphere in Chechnya."

After Moscow-backed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov was assassinated in May 2004, Maskhadov vowed to kill whoever replaced him.

Last autumn, after a horrific school siege in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia's Federal Security Service offered a reward of 300 million rubles ($10.3 million) for information that could help them hunt down Maskhadov and Basayev.

Maskhadov at the time said there was "no justification" for the seizure of the school, but also said recent terrorist attacks perpetrated by Chechens were "unavoidable" because of Russia's policies.

The Beslan siege led to the deaths of more than 300 people, including many students.

Maskhadov vowed to bring to Basayev to justice over the Beslan incident, according to a posting on a Chechen rebel Web site.

"I responsibly announce that after the end of the war, individuals guilty of conducting illegal acts, including Samil Basayev, will be passed to a court of law," Maskhadov had said.

"I announce that the leadership of the Chechen Republic and the armed forces under my control ... had nothing to do with this terrorist act."

Maskhadov was born to Chechens in exile in Kazakhstan. His family returned to Chechnya in 1957. He joined the Soviet army, serving in both Hungary and Lithuania, before becoming chief of staff of the Chechen army in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report

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