Russia’s Chief in Chechnya Survives Bombing
In a pointed reminder of Russia’s unfinished war, guerrillas in Chechnya wounded the latest Kremlin-installed chief of their unruly republic Monday by bombing his motorcade.
Doku Zavgayev, Moscow’s top Chechen appointee in the republic since Nov. 1, escaped with minor facial cuts, but five of his bodyguards suffered more serious injuries from the remote-controlled blast in Grozny, capital of the southern republic.
It was the third attempt to kill a Russian leader or surrogate in Chechnya since separatist rebels signed a partial peace accord with President Boris N. Yeltsin’s government July 30. Talks on a full settlement that would define Chechnya’s political status and lead to an election of new leaders have collapsed, and fighting has intensified.
The bombing appeared to be aimed at stopping elections of a Chechen president and Parliament that the Russians have scheduled for Dec. 17. A spokesman for separatist leader Gen. Dzhokar M. Dudayev vowed last week that no voting will take place “until the last Russian invader has left.”
Wearing a bloodstained white shirt, Zavgayev told reporters after the blast that the vote will go ahead as planned, along with elections throughout Russia for the Duma, the lower house of the national Parliament. But Yeltsin envoy Oleg I. Lobov, who survived a bombing of his motorcade in Grozny on Sept. 20, said the vote in Chechnya could be delayed if necessary.
Nearly a year ago, on Dec. 11, Yeltsin sent troops to Chechnya to crush Dudayev’s then-3-year-old independence movement. At least 20,000 people died in Russia’s bloodiest post-Soviet conflict.
Chechen separatists accused the Russians of bombing mountain villages from the air last week, killing two civilians. The Russian side said Monday that four of its soldiers were killed and 15 others were wounded in weekend ambushes.
A joint commission named to carry out the July 30 disarmament and troop withdrawal agreement has not met since Lt. Gen. Anatoly Romanov, the top Russian military commander in Chechnya, was wounded in an Oct. 6 attack. He is still in a coma.
No group claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on Zavgayev. A spokesman for Dudayev said the Chechen leader, who is in hiding, was not involved in the bombing.