Russia: September 30, 1999



Reports from Chechnya indicate Russian armored vehicles are inside Chechnya. Russian air attacks continue in Chechnya. The Chechens have vowed to resist the Russians as they did in the earlier 1993-96 war. Russia has a serious problem with Chechnya. Since the 1993-96 war, Chechnya has fallen into anarchy. As is common in the Caucasus, people feel more loyalty to their clan than to any government. With the economy in shambles after the war with Russia, and so many young men now heavily armed, criminal activity has become the most common way to make any money. This, in turn, discourages any foreign investment. Chechens have long played a major role in criminal gangs throughout Russia, and the war with the Russians did little to diminish this. 

September 29; Ingushetia expects over 200,000 refugees to flee towards them from the Russian bombing in Chechnya.

September 28; Russian bombers continued to hit targets in Chechnya. When the bombing began , the targets were economic assets owned by the political faction backing the Dagestan invasion. But that soon spread to all military and economic targets in Chechnya, in an attempt to get the Chechens to pressure the radicals invading Dagestan to back off. Russians openly said they were following the same strategy NATO used in Kosovo. This is risky, however, as it may simply enrage all Chechens to support the radicals.

September 27; Russian bombers hit numerous targets around the Chechen capital of Grozny. Chechens report that nearly 400 people have been killed so far by the Russian air raids. There are rumors that the Russians are preparing to enter Chechnya on the ground. For several months, Russia has had 20,000 of the best troops in their army deployed in Dagestan, on or near the Chechen border. These units belong to the 58th Army, which is running the military operations in Dagestan. Over 10,000 Chechen (and other Caucasian) residents of Moscow have been imprisoned pending the capture of those responsible for the recent bombing in Russia. Pension payments to Chechen residents (still technically Russian citizens and thus eligible for state pensions) have been stopped.  Russia has closed the Chechen/Ingushetia border, preventing Chechens fleeing the bombing from entering.

September 26; REPORT FROM CHECHNYA (by someone who just returned from there): Since the first week of August, war has returned to the Caucasus. Dagestani Islamic militants, helped by Chechens, have made several attempts at establishing strongholds near the Chechen border. When that didn't work, four terrorist style bombs went off in Moscow, the capital of Dagestan and Rostov killing nearly 300 people. Repulsed by Russian troops, the Chechen militants lead by Shamil Basayev and Khattab have withdrawn back into Chechnya. The Chechen government denies any links with Basayev, a former Prime Minister of Chechnya. In retaliation, Russia has attempted to blockade the tiny province and has been hitting targets from the air, although on the ground these attacks appeared to be random and caused many civilian casualties. While in Chechnya, these are the attacks I saw reported in the local media.

September 10th Notzha-Yut district bombed from air inflicting 160 wounded 80 dead.
September 11th State of emergency in Russia. Reports of racial intimidation increase to all Caucasians. Shelkovskoy district bombed hitting Muslim graveyards destroying traditional site.
September 12th Surgen-Yut town population of 5-6000 east Chechnya bombed
September 14th Surgen-Yut bombed again killing two adults and 8 wounded.
September 15th reports of 25-30 arrests a day of Caucasians official figure under arrest 11,000. Basayev has reported  over 20,000 Caucasians arrested. He says many are being tortured and killed in custody. Militants and Wahhabis regroup and take rest in Chechnya
September 18th Russian troops reported in Ingushetia heading towards Chechnya. By midday, one battalion dug in along Ingushetia/Chechnya border. 

Inside Chechnya, hospitals are in a desperate state. Not enough beds for the injured. No disposable medicine or bandages. No running clean water or even toilet facilities. No medical aid since 1997. Reports of poor families not able to pay for medicine in taking injured away and not seen again. In Grozny, hospital No 2 children's trauma ward gets 5-6 children a week injured from landmines or unexploded ammunition. This has increased since the bombing started. 

Basayev claims his jihad is caused by Russia's 200-year occupation of the Caucasus. He links similar unrest in the former Soviet republics (now independent) of Central Asia to the same problem of Russian oppression. He claims Dagestan will be independent soon and swears to continue aiding Dagestan militants. He will continue to fight elsewhere until he creates an Islamic state stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. But this is not the immediate aim of Jihad. He admits they took injuries and lost men in last offensive but laughs off the Russian claims of thousands of casualties. He points out that by entering the Botlich district they successfully managed to surround Russians in the Trimedis district and helped 60 trapped Muslims escape. He also helped to extract about a thousand civilians from Karamakhi. He captured new equipment from Russia. He saw Russia's new weapons, learned new tactics against the heavier weapons. He executed several members of own army for looting although they were reported to be foreigners. Basayev claims the KGB are secretly behind the Russian bombs to create state of emergency, which could ultimately delay elections, deflect corruption bombings, providing an excuse to bomb Chechnya and finish unfinished business. He states that his Mujahidins are invincible because they love death as they are on their way to meet Allah. Russians only love life. His ancestors, for seven generations, have fought against Russians. His 5-year-old son wants to join the Mujahidin when he is 15 years old.

The Foreign Minister of Chechnya released statements about recent bombings and their plans to prosecute Russia for war crimes during the 1994-96 war.

"We the Chechen Government have nothing to do with the recent terrorist attacks, even during the worst years of fighting during 94-96 we didn't use those tactics so why would we use them now, we would not go down to that level.

Russia has demanded we hand over the terrorists that bombed Russia. We are willing to co-operate fully when they show us the evidence and under the following conditions.

A. If the UN will be involved in this situation and all comply with international law.
B. In exchange of the Chechen terrorists we want the political leaders who were responsible for the genocide of our people in 94-96, as their acts are also described as terrorist.
C. We also demand the pilots that are currently bombing Chechnya and the generals who give the orders; we will try them in our own courts of law.

We have compiled allot of evidence against Russian state terrorism for the war, the evidence for a start is this city of Grozny and the 120,000 civilians. Our justice department is preparing material for the international war crimes tribunal and we have already contacted the UN and still waiting a response." -- ALEX SMAILES/CORBIS SYGMA




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