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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Chechen mayor shot dead
A senior local government official has been shot dead in Chechnya, days before the republic goes to the polls to elect a new president.

Police said Musa Dakayev, the mayor of the southern town of Shali, died of multiple wounds on Wednesday evening after his car was ambushed at a crossroads.

Mr Dakayev's son, a policeman, was also killed.

Aslan Maskhadov
Maskhadov vowed to continue armed resistance
The shooting came as Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov dismissed the forthcoming election as illegitimate.

In an interview with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, he vowed to continue fighting until Russian troops leave Chechnya.

Mr Maskhadov was elected Chechen president almost six years ago, in a poll that was recognised internationally, and has led resistance since Russian troops re-entered the republic in October 1999.

The conflict has turned into a stalemate, with thousands of troops and civilians killed.

Unity call

Today we must unite to save our people
Akhmad Kadyrov
Pro-Moscow presidential candidate
Sunday's election forms part of Moscow's plans to end a decade of unrest in Chechnya.

Akhmad Kadyrov, the current pro-Moscow leader and the Kremlin's favourite to win the election, told supporters in the eastern town of Gudermes that he was the right person to achieve this.

"Today we must unite to save our people," he said in remarks broadcast on Russian TV on Thursday. "Everyone here today agreed with that."

But correspondents say concerns have been raised about the fairness of the election, after the main challengers to Mr Kadyrov either withdrew or were barred from standing.

The desire for freedom for Chechens is inspired by the Almighty and Putin won't manage to crush it
Aslan Maskhadov
Rebel leader
Mr Maskhadov, for his part, said he was still Chechen president and that his duty was to defend its sovereignty.

"An elected Kadyrov will be no different to an appointed Kadyrov," he said.

"Armed resistance in Chechnya will end only when the occupiers leave."

Rules of war

He denied that Chechens were prepared to accept Russian rule.

"The desire for freedom for Chechens... is inspired by the Almighty and Putin won't manage to crush it," he said.

But Mr Maskhadov distanced himself from suicide attacks and other acts of terrorism which have killed hundreds of people over the past year.

He said he did not agree with Shamil Basayev, the warlord who is thought to be behind several high-profile attacks.

"Shamil believes that all methods are acceptable in resisting the Russians," he said.

"But I maintain you have to observe certain rules in war. I don't think the end justifies the means."

Mr Maskhadov said that he was permanently based in Chechnya and was able to travel around all its districts, although he could not make public appearances for security reasons.

On Sunday the republic's prime minister, Anatoly Popov, was flown to hospital in Moscow amid fears that he had been poisoned.

However, doctors later suggested that it may just have been a routine case of food poisoning, and he was back at work in Chechnya on Wednesday.


SEE ALSO:
Unending Chechen nightmare
12 May 03  |  Europe
Q&A: The Chechen conflict
29 Oct 02  |  Europe
Profile: Chechnya
30 Apr 03  |  Country profiles


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