Russian forces in Chechnya are bracing themselves for reprisals following the death of separatist leader, Aslan Maskhadov.
The former President of the breakaway republic was killed on Tuesday during a Russian secret service operation in a village north of the capital, Grozny.
Many analysts believe Maskhadov will be replaced by the warlord, Shamil Basayev, who claims to have been behind the bloody siege at a school in Beslan last year.
With Chechen rebels vowing to continue their fight for independence, the Kremlin is on high alert.
There is mixed opinion in the Russian press on whether Maskhadov’s death will provide a much-needed triumph for President Vladimir Putin, who has suffered numerous setbacks in pursuing hardline policies in Chechnya.
Many viewed Maskhadov as a moderate and Russia’s best hope of finding a peaceful solution to a conflict that has raged on for more than a decade.