Russia: August 16, 1999

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Russian troops have managed to seize most of the important heights in the are where Chechen rebels are holding out. With the high ground in their control, the Russians can better observe rebel movements, and prevent the rebels, who lack aircraft, from seeing what the Russians are doing. Russia claims that some 400 rebels have been killed so far.

August 15; Intense fighting reported in Dagestan, as Russian troops close in on rebel held villages. The rebels show little inclination to surrender, preferring to fight to the death. Two Dagestani volunteers and a local policeman were killed overnight, with six more troops wounded. The Russians claim they killed sixty rebels in an ambush. The ambushed rebels were said to be led by Shirvany Basayev, the brother of rebel commander Shamil Basayev.

August 14; Overnight, four Russian troops were killed and 13 wounded in Dagestan fighting. Russia also says it is monitoring cell phone calls the rebels are making and that the rebels are desperately asking for reinforcements. Local Dagestan Islamic religious leaders have gone on television urging Dagestanis to reject the calls of the Chechen rebels to rally to the more radical Wahhabi sect of Islam. Dagestani volunteers have joined with the Russians in fighting the rebels.

August 13; Russia began several attacks on Islamic rebels in Dagestan. The fighting is one of small units, squads and platoons, trying to detect the many hidden positions the rebels have taken up in the hills. To avoid the Russian artillery and aircraft, the rebels prepare several different firing positions, work out how to move about behind cover (hills, woods, ravines, Etc.) If the Russian fire becomes too effective, the rebels withdraw to another position and continue firing at advancing Russian troops. But with well trained and led troops, backed by accurate artillery and aircraft, the Russians can methodically drive the rebels back into the villages and then pound the villages to rubble. Russia has said the fighting may spread to Chechnya, in order to destroy supply bases the rebels are depending on.

August 12; Russia promises a "massive operation" to destroy the 1,200 Chechen rebels who have invaded Dagestan. This probably means several brigades of ground troops, a brigade of artillery (over a hundred heavy guns) and scores of helicopters and aircraft. Meanwhile, the rebels announce they have "surrounded" the Russian 136th infantry brigade. Using cell phones to issue announcements to the media, the rebels also set up photo opportunities. But most of this is taunting. The "surrounded" Russian brigade no doubt has had some of it's supply trucks shot at. The number of Dagestanis volunteering to fight the rebels has reached 1,500. More elite Russian combat units arrive in Dagestan each day. Most are paratroopers or commandoes from other parts of Russia. Some 150 rebels have been killed and 300 wounded so far, Russian officers estimate.

August 11; Some 6,000 refugees have now fled the battle area in Dagestan. With a total population of nearly two million, and some thirty different ethnic groups, Dagestan is quite different than Chechnya in terms of politics. While few Dagestanis like Russians, they don't like each other very much either, and care even less for Chechens. So far 300 Dagestanis have volunteered to fight the invading Chechens. Thousands of other Dagestanis serve in the local police forces and with Interior Ministry units. Russian units began closing in on Chechen held villages, with paratroopers advancing behind the fire of artillery and helicopter gunships. The battle in the mountains and hills is something of a chess game, as each side tries to block the others supply routes. The Russians have the advantage with their helicopters, which can carry troops and supplies. Russian troops suffered ten killed and 27 wounded today.

 

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