Russia: August 19, 1999

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Over two dozen bombing sorties a day are being flown against Chechens barricaded inside Dagestan villages. Total Russian casualties so far have been 40 dead and 150 wounded. Unlike the 1994-96 fighting in Chechnya, the Russians are planning their operations much more carefully and using better trained and led troops.

August 18; More ammunition, supplies and support troops pour into Dagestan by road and air as Russia prepares for a decisive fight against Chechen invaders. Eight Russian soldiers were killed and twenty wounded clearing out another Dagestan village.

August 17; Ten Russian troops were reported killed while retaking a Chechen held village in Dagestan. There are about 12,000 Dagestan refugees fleeing the battle area. To further encourage their troops, the elite of the Russian army, the government announced that soldiers will be paid a thousand dollars a month, about ten times the usual pay rate.

August 18; A fully equipped paratroop battalion of the 31st Airborne brigade arrived. These troops have self-propelled mortars and armored fighting vehicles.

August 17; Although Russian troops have chased Chechen rebels out of some villages in Dagestan, the fast moving Chechens have taken control of more villages and towns, about 20 so far. Meanwhile, the Russians are still building up elite infantry forces to clear all the Chechens out of the area. Initially, the Russians responded with whatever local troops were available. This included a battalion of Interior Ministry troops, about 900 local police and paramilitary volunteers (equipped as infantry) and a battalion from the nearby 136th infantry brigade. Several dozen attack helicopters and Su-25 ground attack aircraft were available from local airbases, plus several battalions of artillery. The artillery and air power had to be used carefully, because civilian casualties could turn the local Dagestanis against the Russian effort. At the moment, the Dagestanis see the Chechens as an invading force, but if Russian firepower blows apart their villages, that attitude might change. For the moment, Russian forces are trying, with little success, to keep the Chechens pinned down. A few companies of paratroopers and commandoes were sent in quickly to at least do some professional scouting and patrolling to keep an eye on the Chechens.

 

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