Russia: October 6, 1999

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Russian troops continue to arrive on the north bank of the Terek river, while more lightly armed Chechen troops mass on the south bank, digging in and preparing for the worst. The worst is a Russian push on the capital Grozny, twenty kilometers to the south. It's much easier for the Russians to hold the Terek river line, as getting across the river unnoticed is much more difficult than sneaking through the mountains. But this won't keep Chechens out of Dagestan, for Chechnya shares a long border with Dagestan to the east, as well as north. Thus the possibility that the Russians, with much higher quality troops during the 1993-96 war, will move on Grozny and attempt to conquer the entire area. The Chechens can be beaten, the Russians have done it several times before. But it isn't easy and costs a lot in money and lives. The Chechens have not resisted the Russians north of the Terek river, probably because that is flat terrain that favors the Russians and their hundreds of armored vehicles. The Chechens have a better chance of stopping the Russians south of the Terek, where the terrain becomes more mountainous.. 

October 5; Russian troops moved quickly through the relatively flat terrain of northern Chechnya and reached the Terek river. Chechens resisted in some villages, but most pulled back to the south bank of the Terek river. The president of Chechnya declared martial law and called for holy war to drive the Russians out. Two Russian warplanes were lost. It was not known if the causes were enemy action or mechanical failure. One was an Su-25 (similar to the US A-10) and the other an Su-24, similar to the US F-111.) The Chechens claim to have shot down the Su-25 with a US Stinger missile. Many Stingers were, given to anti-Russian guerillas in Afghanistan,  unaccounted for after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1988. It's unlikely any of these would still be useable, and many Russian missiles similar to the Stinger have been available in the 1990s.

October 4; The Terek Cossacks Return. As Russian troops advance into northern Chechnya, they encounter remnants of the Terek Cossacks. This community originally lived along the Terek river in northern Chechnya, guarding the natural barrier between most of Chechnya and other Russian territories to the north. The communists destroyed most of the Cossacks after the Russian Civil War in the early 1920s, but many descendents of these fierce warriors survive. And for good reason, as the Russians were able to conquer Siberia and the Caucasus through the use of Cossacks to keep an eye on the locals and guard the border between Russians and non-Russians. The Cossacks were among the most loyal of the Czars soldiers. As Russia expanded into the "Wild East" five centuries ago, they found Russians and other Slavs already there, living rough, but free, on the frontier. The frontier always attracted the adventurous types and it was no different in Russia. Since Russia did not abolish serfdom until the 1860s, there was a constant supply of escaped serfs desperate to flee virtual slavery. Many died in the rough and ready frontier areas, but those that survived were a tough bunch. There was some intermarriage with the locals, be they Central Asian Turks or Caucasian Chechens. The Russian government, when it reached frontier areas populated by Cossacks, wisely decided to form alliances with the Cossacks, recognizing their democratic lifestyle and freedoms. The Cossacks elected their leaders and made their own laws. But in return, the Cossacks were obliged to fight for the Czar. This they did, for the Czar supplied weapons, money and a license to loot. The Cossacks were organized into regiments, and one of these regiments was formed from the Terek Cossacks. Russia will need something like the Cossacks to maintain any kind of control in places like Dagestan and Chechnya. Remnants of the original Cossacks came out publicly when the Soviet Union fell, showing that even seventy years of communist oppression could not exterminate the Cossack spirit. But for the Cossacks to work there have to be thousands of them living together, heavily armed and in fortified villages. The Cossacks were generally farmers or herdsmen, and part time soldiers. They patrolled their area and provided scouts and military advisors if the Russian army had to move in. The Cossacks were also used as vigilante police, relying more on terror than arrest warrants to punish entire communities. The Cossacks may not return to the Terek river valley, but apparently violence and terror has.

October 4; The government said only two troops had been killed and seven wounded as Russian troops moved into Chechnya and towards the Terek river valley. There was one major, or at least very noisy, battle for a village on the north bank of the Terek river. 

October 3; Chechens claim that the Russians have suffered over a hundred dead druing the fighting on the north bank of the Terek river. The Russians claim much lower casualties. The Russians are coming in with lots of tanks and other armored vehicles. Air raids continue on Chechen towns, particularly the capital Grozny. Over 110,000 refugees have fled the fighting and bombing in Chechnya.

October 2; Heavy fighting was reported in and around the villages of Rubyezhnoye, Ishcherskaya, Chernokozovo, Alpatovo and Savelyevskaya in the Naurskaya district of northern Chechnya.

October 1; Russia no longer recognizes the locally elected government in Chechnya. This means the Russians will no longer negotiate with Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov. At the same time, several brigades of Russian troops were reported moving into Chechnya. The government would not confirm the local reports of over a thousand armored vehicles being seen moving into Chechnya from Dagestan and Ingushetia. The Russian troops were reported to be as much as 30 kilometers inside Chechnya. The number of refugees streaming out of Chechnya is approaching 100,000.

 

 

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