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In 1989, Zavgayev, a former collective farm manager and senior Soviet Communist Party official, was appointed as the first Chechen First Secretary of the autonomous republic since the Chechens' return in 1957.
Taking advantage of the Soviet Union's implosion, Dzhokhar Dudayev and his supporters acted against the Zavgayev's administration. On September 6, 1991, militants of the All-National Congress of Chechen People (NCChP), headed by Dudayev, stormed a session of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR Supreme Soviet, killing the Soviet Communist Party chief for Grozny, Vitali Kutsenko, severely injuring several other Soviet members, and effectively dissolving the government of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR. Zavgayev, the Chairman of the Soviet, was not present and was able to flee the republic, publicly announcing that he would return.
By the spring of 1994 Zavgayev managed to convince both the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin and the heads of the "force ministries" that Russia should actively intervene in Chechnya, where he became appointed pro-Moscow head of state on October 24, 1995, and elected in December in a dubious circumstances.
On December 8, 1995, Zavgayev and Viktor Chernomyrdin signed an agreement as a basis for a Russian-Chechen federation treaty which would give Chechnya broad autonomy along the lines of the between Russia and Tatarstan, and which also incorporated the main points of Ruslan Khasbulatov's earlier proposal.
After the 1996 withdrawal of the Russian forces from Chechnya, he was appointed Russia's ambassador in Tanzania. Currently he is Deputy Foreign Minister and Director General of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In September 2009 he was appointed Russia's ambassador in Slovenia.
- Anatol Lieven, Chechnya, Yale University Press, p.137, ISBN 0-300-07398-4
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