Prominent Chechen gunned down in Moscow

MOSCOW Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:26pm EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A gunman shot dead a former rebel Chechen commander in central Moscow Wednesday whose brother has emerged as a rival to the pro-Moscow leader of the troubled southern Russian region, police said.

An Interior ministry spokesman said that according to preliminary information, an unidentified gunman shot dead Ruslan Yamadayev from a pistol when his car stopped at a traffic light.

Yamadayev, who had survived several previous assassination attempts, died on the spot. Another man who was sitting in the car was badly injured.

Ruslan Yamadayev and his younger brother Sulim were high-ranking rebel commanders during the first Chechen war of 1995-96 after which the separatist region won effective, if short-lived, independence from Moscow.

But in 1999, both switched sides and joined the Russian forces sent to restore Moscow's control over the province.

Since then, Ruslan Yamadayev, born in 1961, occupied several major positions including that of military commandant of Chechnya and was a parliamentary deputy for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in 2003-07.

He was overshadowed by his brother Sulim, born in 1973, who until May commanded the Vostok (East) battalion -- a force composed of former rebels integrated into Russian forces deployed in Chechnya.

Sulim, who commanded a loyal military force, has emerged as a strong rival to Ramzan Kadyrov, another former rebel who has imposed Moscow's rule in Chechnya with an iron fist.

In May, Sulim was sacked as Vostok commander and prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him over alleged involvement in kidnappings and murders.

However, according some media reports Sulim Yamadayev and his Vostok battalion took part in the Russian military invasion in Georgia in early August. Officials would not confirm this but the warrant for his arrest was recalled in late August.

(Reporting by Tatyana Ustinova, Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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