Kremlin's man inaugurated as Chechnya's president

Alkhanov vows to restore order in war-torn republic

October 06, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

GROZNY, Russia - Alu Alkhanov, the Kremlin's latest hope for stabilizing its foundering strategy in the Caucasus, was sworn into office here yesterday as president of Chechnya, taking control of the government of a republic with its infrastructure in ruins and its nights racked by lawlessness and terror.

The ceremony took place on the first day of what is supposed to be a four-year term. Of all the difficult tasks ahead - and there are many - Alkhanov's chief chore may be to stay alive.

"We have a motherland: Russia," he said, choosing a message loathed by the separatist rebels who assassinated his predecessor. "We have a cause: prosperity. God help us."

The inauguration was uneventful and swift, held under tight security on the grounds of the fortified government complex, which has been renovated after nearly being destroyed two years ago by a truck bomb.

With gunmen frisking guests and a dog sniffing for explosives at the entrance to the tent in which the ceremony took place, Alkhanov called for a fresh commitment to restore order in a corner of Russia that has endured a decade of violence. "Much has been done," he said. "We have to do much more."

He suggested an intention to work more closely with human rights groups, the most unrelenting critics of the Kremlin's policy on Chechnya.

A band played. The state mufti offered a prayer for peace and luck. Then Alkhanov slipped away in a black Mercedes-Benz sedan.

The post came open in May when the previous president, Akhmad Kadyrov, was killed by a bomb hidden in a stadium.

Alkhanov, 47, was formerly Chechnya's top law enforcement officer and, like his predecessor, is the Kremlin's man.

He emphasized that in his remarks yesterday, quoting Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, and proclaiming that terrorist acts emanating from Chechnya cannot be stopped without close cooperation between the republic and Moscow.

Since June, when Alkhanov announced his candidacy on national television, he has become one of the Kremlin's most reliable messengers, continually declaring that Chechnya is on a course toward reconstruction and economic recovery.

He has said he will continue the work of Kadyrov and follow the Kremlin's economic plan. He has suggested that he will lure rebels into an amnesty program and peaceful lives. He has vowed to curb the abductions for ransom that have terrorized Chechens and to force law enforcement personnel to work without their faces hidden by masks.

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