Chechen rebel leader claims presidential victory
Moscow remains resistant to independence
January 28, 1997
Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EST (2120 GMT)
In this story:
(CNN) -- Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday cautiously welcomed the
apparent victory of moderate candidate Aslan Maskhadov in
breakaway Chechnya's presidential election. But Moscow also
indicated it would not accept independence for Chechnya, a
mostly Muslim region of southern Russia.
Maskhadov, one of 13 candidates, received about two-thirds of
the tabulated vote, according to Chechnya's Central Election
Commission. The commission said about one-third of the
ballots had not been tallied.
No official results from the presidential polls, held
simultaneously with the regional parliament election, have
At a news conference declaring victory, Maskhadov promised to
make sure "our independence is recognized by all the
countries of the world, including Russia." To achieve that
end, he said Chechnya would use only political means and was
ready for direct talks with Moscow.
Maskhadov also said he intends to create an Islamic state,
adding "there isn't anything that anybody should be afraid
"In the president's opinion," said Yeltsin press aide Sergei
Yastrzhembsky, the election gives "a serious chance for
productive negotiations to continue between the federal
government and the new Chechen leadership."
He said, however, that the Kremlin still ruled out granting
full independence to Chechnya, where Russian troops
unsuccessfully waged a 21-month military campaign to crush
A peace deal signed last August defers Chechnya's final
political status for five years, but Maskhadov, like all his
main rivals in the presidential race, insists his Caucasian
region is already a fully independent state.
At his news conference declaring victory, the 45-year-old
military leader who masterminded the defeat of Russian forces
chided rebel hard-liner Shamil Basayev, 32, who seemed set to
finish a distant second, for running a dirty campaign.
But he promised to work with any of his former allies.
"Basayev can come and be my comrade again," he told
reporters at his farmhouse home outside the capital Grozny.
Basayev's apparent second-place showing was a relief to
Moscow. He is loathed in the Kremlin for leading a
spectacular raid on the Russian town of Butennovsk in 1995 in
which more than 100 people died.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE), which sent dozens of observers to the election, gave
its seal of approval to the polls on Tuesday.
Tim Guldimann, OSCE mission chief in Chechnya, said 72 OSCE
observers had registered only minor procedural problems
during the voting on Monday, such as campaigning right up
until polling day.
"There were no serious infringements with effect on the
overall results and in particular there were no indications
of distortions," he said.
Correspondent Betsy Aaron and Reuters contributed to this report.
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