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Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 09:23 GMT
Putin on target for presidency

putin Chechnya is no longer a problem for Putin

By Russian Affairs Analyst Stephen Dalziel

Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin has received a significant boost this week in his bid for victory in the presidential election in March.

The capture of the Chechen capital, Grozny, by Russian forces, and the destruction of significant numbers of Chechen fighters may have removed the possibility of the war going wrong for Mr Putin and ruining his chances in the election.

soldier Russian troops have taken hold of Grozny

And in a number of other ways, Mr Putin appears to be preparing to become president.

Ever since last August, when former Russian President Boris Yeltsin catapulted Vladimir Putin from nowhere to prime minister and would-be successor, the single biggest obstacle to his becoming president has appeared to be the war in Chechnya.

Although the military operation has had massive public support, a frequently asked question has been: what if it all starts to go wrong, and thousands of Russian soldiers start dying?

This seemed particularly relevant when the Russian army officially acknowledged that more than 1,000 soldiers had died in the campaign.

Now though, the danger of Chechnya proving to be Mr Putin's undoing appears to have been removed.

With Grozny in Russian hands, and hundreds of rebels killed - including some senior leaders - it seems unlikely the Chechens could mount a serious military challenge to the Russians before the election takes place at the end of March.

Took control

When Mr Yeltsin retired on New Year's Eve, Mr Putin was quick to establish his authority, that day addressing the nation in confident fashion.

He has since issued his concept of national security, a hard-hitting document highlighting many of Russia's social and economic woes.

Primakov Primakov has pulled out of the race

And he has removed a number of Mr Yeltsin's people from their posts in the presidential administration, replacing them with his own men.

Mr Putin has also ensured that he has the speaker of parliament he wanted.

And with the withdrawal from the presidential race of former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, one of the few genuine challengers to Mr Putin is out of the way.

But on top of all of this, it may yet be that the fall of Grozny proves to be the point at which the rise of Vladimir Putin became unstoppable.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russia to cut Chechnya force
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechen rebels 'set up mountain base'
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Liberty journalist handed to Chechens
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Can anyone claim victory?
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Conflict not over yet
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Turkey succours wounded Chechens
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
US warns Russia over Chechnya
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees battle Caucasus winter
30 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The shifting sands of war
05 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russians pursue Chechen rebels

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