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Chechen president is ousted by Putin; premier steps in

February 16, 2007|From the Associated Press

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday dismissed the president of the war-battered republic of Chechnya and named its prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov, as acting president.

The dismissal of Alu Alkhanov came after days of speculation that he was engaged in a power struggle with Kadyrov, who is alleged by human rights groups to be responsible for abductions and detention of civilians and suspected separatist rebels.

A Kremlin statement said that Alkhanov was freed from the post "by his own wish," but Alkhanov had denied this week that he was on the verge of resigning.

He was appointed a deputy Russian justice minister, a separate statement said.

Kadyrov is the son of the late Akhmad Kadyrov, who became Chechen president in 2003 in a Kremlin-conducted election aimed at undermining the separatist rebel movement. He was assassinated seven months later.

Chechnya has been plagued by fighting with separatist rebels for most of the last dozen years. A 20-month war ended in 1996 with the withdrawal of Russian troops after rebels fought them to a standstill. The region in effect became independent and fell increasingly under the influence of fundamentalist Muslims.

In September 1999, Russian forces swept back into the region after an incursion by Chechnya-based fighters into neighboring Dagestan and after fatal apartment bombings in other parts of Russia, which officials blamed on the separatists. The Russians drove out the separatist government and established an administration backed and largely controlled by the Kremlin.

Rebels and Russian soldiers still skirmish.

After the killing in October of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who had written critical reports on Chechnya, speculation rose that the slaying was connected with her investigation of Kadyrov's administration.

Kadyrov denied any connection, saying, "I don't kill women."

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