The Chechen separatist leader, Aslan Maskhadov, has been killed in a Russian troop raid.
Maskhadov was seen by many as the most moderate of Chechnya's rebel commanders after distancing himself from a string of terror attacks and calling for talks between both sides.
A former Soviet colonel, he was branded a terrorist by Moscow for his involvement in the war in Chechnya.
Russia's security service has since revealed it paid a $10m (£5.2m) bounty for the information which led to Maskhadov's death.
What does Aslan Maskhadov's death mean for the Chechen conflict? Will it worsen the violence or has an opportunity for a resolution to the crisis emerged?
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I honestly think people should stop talking about "what ifs". Aslan Maskhadov is dead. It's not the issue here if his killing was a mistake or not. We should focus our minds on finding a solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, the only solution I see is creating an international peace force in Chechnya. It should also comprise of Russian forces. There will be many terrorist attacks intended to drive them out. But in a couple of years, people will come to understand that this force is only there temporary and its only goal is to ensure stability and democratic elections.
Andrei, Bucharest, Romania
Killing Maskhadov and expecting it to improve the situation in Chechnya is akin to firing Rumsfeld and expecting Perle or Wolfowitz to be more moderate. Total idiocy. This guy was the only thing keeping Chechnya, Dagestan, and Georgia from degenerating further into hell. Good job, Putin.
I think Russians make a mistake thinking that this conflict could be solved by force. Instead of killing Maskhadov they should have talked with him. He wanted talks - not very typical for terrorists. Some compared him with bin Laden but bin Laden never wanted to negotiate with anyone. I think that at this point some international opinion should react and organisations like UN should discuss with Russia about finding a solution for this conflict.
Wojciech, Gdansk , Poland
Chechnya is further away from peace and war will continue. Vladmir Putin has shown no remorse or any political solution. The Russian federation has been the aggressor to the point of the brink of war. The time is now for Chechnya, because the old former Soviet states are breaking ties with Russia and the Russians will be in this alone.
Albert Perndocaj, New York, USA
The priority of the Russian government should be to focus on the economy of Chechnya rather than eliminate certain criminal figures or groups. They will not be eliminated until Russians regain trust of ordinary Chechens. It may be hard, because every single person has lost either a husband, brother or son, but I believe time heals every wound only if Russians really change their tactics.
Anna, Tbilisi, Georgia
Killing such a moderate politician and publicly disgracing a dead man will not bring peace in any country. Instead it will make the Chechen people more determined in the fight for their lands.
Ayhan, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Russia today is far more democratic than the Soviet Union ever was. The Chechens have their own parliament and president within the Russian Federation. Unlike the Kurds in Turkey they enjoy complete cultural, economic and political rights. With the death of Maskhadov the outside world should begin to persuade the rebels to end their terrorism and start taking advantage of the new economic opportunities available inside Russia.
Jack Parkinson, London UK
This is a very troubling region, not only Chechnya but also Dagestan, Ingushetia and the many other neglected mountain republics on Russia's porous Southern border are a weeping sore upon a Russian conscript army that can barely contain a civil insurgency. The death of one man will have no affect on the stability or lack thereof in the region. Putin is fast losing control of his country whilst hording more and more power for himself... The future for Russia and ultimately for Central Asia and Europe does not look rosy if a corrupt and impotent government remains in power.
Ian, Oxford, UK
Chechens should now come to a discussion table. They killed the Russian appointed Chechen head before and now suffer this loss. They should declare a ceasefire to prepare grounds for negotiations with Mr Putin. No one should see this as Chechnya's defeat though.
Rajesh Kulkarni, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The vast majority of Chechens are against Russian rule and have been struggling for their freedom for decades. And all the while Russian troops and agents from the Soviet era and until today continue to harass and commit unspeakable human rights violation on Chechens. In recent times, Chechen rebels have been taking revenge by killing innocent Russians. Widows and children of slain rebels have joined the fight. The bitterness and thirst for vengeance on both sides are extreme and leaves no room for compromise and negotiations. The only solution which Russia will never yield to is an independent Chechnya.
Hassan Mohamed, Male, Maldives
Maskhadov's death will make it a little harder for the rebels to speak with one voice or to have co-ordinated military actions. It will weaken them on a practical level and hopefully dispirit them on a moral level. They need to know that whomever emerges as the "leader" of their gangs of killers will himself be targeted.
Jeremy, Atlanta, USA
Unfortunately Putin is like Bush. They both see things as black and white - right or wrong. Both are uncompromising and can not see that the sum of their actions is only inspiring more terrorism. Russia has been abusing the Chechens and trying to control this region before Putin was even born. One leader's death is not going to bring an end to a conflict that has been going on for more than a hundred years.
No peace can be achieved by the use of force. Violence has a chain reaction, it will create more violence. When will we ever learn?
Asma, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This is a terrible mistake made by Russia. The situation will only get from bad to worst.
Yasser Khan, Pakistan/Canada
If Putin thinks Aslan's death will bring an end to Chechen separatists' struggle for freedom, he must be day dreaming. I am afraid, that this could take a worse turn.
SH Moulana, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
With the death of Aslan Maskhadov all hopes to end this war with peace talks have faded. He was the last figure, who had authority with Chechen insurgents and wanted peace talks. Now we are left with people (from both sides) who understand peace as obedience to their power. It seems this nightmare will never end up...
Serguey Sovsoun, Moscow, Russia
People outside Russia seem to be either unaware or are quick to forget where the root of this conflict is. "Maskhadov was a democratically elected leader of Chechnya" and "He was also interested in negotiations and was easy to deal with". True. Let us also recall that the Russians negotiated with him and consequently withdrew troops in 1996 giving Chechnya full autonomy. What went wrong? Having been given freedom, criminal gangs fully backed by Maskhadov and his government, invaded Dagestan in 1999.
Dagestan is a territory of Russian Federation and Russia had the right to protect its citizens from bandits. The Chechen aggression towards Dagestan repeated several times and was only put to an end by the return of Russian troops to Chechnya. That's beside other terrorist activities. It was not Russia who started it. Everyone would agree that the right place for a criminal is jail. When a criminal cannot be jailed, they should be removed from the society by other means.
Aslan Maskhadov was a democratically elected leader of Chechnya. He was also interested in negotiations and was easy to deal with. His death will bring the hardliners in power and more bloodshed will follow. Putin made a mistake in eliminating him and his actions are going to prolong the conflict and isolate Russian further from other Europeans who prefer negotiations for the conflict.
Tedla Asfaw, Flushing, NY, USA
I have read that since the beginning of the first war, the Russians have killed about one in four Chechen males and displaced half of the one million Chechens who used to live there. The country is a black hole of human rights violations. If it were Christian separatists fighting Muslims then the West never would have let the slaughter continue. The real question is why do the Russians continue their brutal hold on this republic after letting go of Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia etc?
Tom, New York City, USA
By killing a moderate leader the Russians Government have shown all contempt for peace-making. Putin has a long way to go of he thinks he is running a modern and democratic state.
Philip Walker, Valence, France
It is a well known fact that out of all leaders in Chechnya, Maskhadov was the moderate one, he was pursuing peace while other 'leaders' who opposed him had an opposite point of view. It is only common sense that this will cause further violence and destabilisation in the North Caucasus, which will only have a negative effect on Russia.
Giorgi Anadze, Canada
Had Mr Maskhadov been successful in controlling people like Basayev years ago, he would have been alive today. It was his ultimate failure. On the other hand he was a person you could talk to. I believe both Basayev and Putin are beneficiaries of this event, much to the loss of the civilians (and soldiers) in Both Russia and Chechnya. It would have been a big success for Russia and Chechnya if this was Basayev. Both the US and Russia should become more careful in defining who is terrorist and who is not.
Stefan Kirov, Knoxville, USA
The Russians have made the mistake of killing a leading rebel that actually denounced the terror attacks. On one side he'll become a martyr and his death will encourage more terror, on the other his death will send the message that in trying to use diplomacy with the Russians was pointless and that violence was the only option. This was a tremendous mistake that the Putin administration will come to regret.
Darryl LeCount, Paderborn, Germany
There will be consequences for Russia killing the only democratically elected leader in recent Chechen history. The groups that Maskhadov were allied with will now most likely switch over to the radical Islamists (Wahabis) and you can bet that the Russians will be regretting this decision for some time to come.
Andre Leitao, Montreal, Canada
If Mr Maskhadov was as stated in the BBC the "most moderate" of the Chechen separatist hasn't Russia just shot itself in the foot? Won't this give fuel to those more extreme in the separatist movement? This raid seems very poorly thought out to me as it would seem this is the man you would want left standing to negotiate with after the battle is done.
Diana Downey, Michigan USA
Chechnya and Russia have hated each other for centuries. Do you really think one man's death is going to make any difference in a blood feud lasting this long?
Unfortunately, I believe that his killing will only escalate the violence. He will probably become a martyr to the Chechens and they will use his name as a rallying cry.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio, USA
What peace are you talking about? The Russians have killed thousands of Chechen Muslims among them women and children. This is an ideological struggle similar to the Iraq war and such ideological struggles do not come to an end by the death of some brave Muslims fighting for their independence.
Ahmad Farooq, Islamabad, Pakistan
Maskhadov's death definitely will give an extra spin to the conflict. From people who were heartless enough to hurt and kill children deliberately in Beslan I expect anything but peace. Also, Putin's intention to honour those who killed Mr Maskhadov will not smooth things either. So, I think the whole issue is pretty much at the same point where it started.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
Another terror leader is eliminated. This is a heavy blow to the Chechens and it will definitely have an impact on their ability to carry out attacks. All the comments like "he was a moderate..." or "he distanced himself from attacks..." have no meaning. He was a leader of a group which carried out attacks that killed women and children and his "moderation" means nothing to those who lost families to these attacks.