Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, says it has confirmed the death of Chechen rebel warlord Ruslan Gelayev. It has released footage of a body, saying the corpse has been identified as that of the rebel commander. But Russian officials have reported Mr Gelayev’s death in the past, leading some commentators to urge caution.
Others point to the timing of the announcement, suspicious about such a success against the rebels coming so close to presidential elections.
But the FSB is confident Russian troops have finally killed Mr Gelayev.
A spokesman for the security service says four other rebels – captured earlier by the Russians – have now identified his corpse.
Russian officials say the body has been identified by Chechen fighters State-run television is showing footage of the body – which does appear to resemble the warlord.
The FSB claims experts have also identified Mr Gelayev by a wound on his leg, and by the dagger he was carrying when killed.
The security service claims the killing as a significant triumph against separatist forces in Chechnya.
But because his death and capture have been reported before, the FSB admits it will wait for forensic evidence before issuing any final confirmation of his death.
According to the spokesman, the rebel leader was shot dead by border guards in the mountains of Dagestan.
It is thought he was hiding out there, following heavy fighting in December.
Ruslan Gelayev has played a prominent role in both wars in Chechnya, leading a number of brutal raids against Russian forces.
He has long figured high on Moscow’s wanted-list.
But the timing of this announcement has raised suspicions here.
Mr Putin stands for re-election this month, and a high-profile success like this one would certainly do him no harm.
The president came to power on a pledge to wipe out separatist rebels in Chechnya – but it’s a promise that has defeated him so far.