Yeltsin Appoints Koshman to Run Chechnya

President Boris Yeltsin on Friday appointed a former railway ministry official to the post of deputy prime minister and put him in charge of administering Russian-occupied Chechen territory.

Nikolai Koshman, 55, is a general and deputy commander of railway military forces, and also a former Chernobyl "liquidator" - someone who knowingly exposed himself to radiation while cleaning up immediately after the 1986 accident. During the first Chechen war, he worked on rebuilding damaged railways.

In 1996, Koshman also served as deputy prime minister under Doku Zavgayev as part of a short-lived Moscow-installed government in Chechnya.

His new marching orders were laid out a day earlier by Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko, who said he would be in charge of restoring order and normal life in occupied areas.

Matviyenko told a news conference Thursday that Koshman's administration would focus on social problems, including making pension and salary payments, reopening schools and hospitals, and coping with refugees.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin told Itar-Tass that Koshman's new job would be to work on reviving the Chechen economy and "restoring the organs of state power" there.

Koshman himself told Itar-Tass Friday evening that he considered his main task to be "to return faith to the people of Chechnya ... and in general to bring in a normal, human way of life." He said he intended to visit Chechnya soon.

Until recently, Koshman has been mainly working at the State Duma and the Federation Council helping draft laws governing the railway industry.