Russia: November 20, 1999


Russian troops are now within 2,000 meters of Grozny airport, the only international airport still under Chechen control. The airport is not of much use now, as the Russians can hit it with machine-gun fire as well as artillery and warplanes. The Russians are also capturing more Chechen towns via surrender. The Russians have let it be known that they will accept the surrender of towns and villages from the local elders, as long as it can be guaranteed that the armed Chechen men are gone. This is working, as with winter closing in, even the Chechens understand that continued pounding by Russian artillery will leave everyone homeless in the cold.

November 20; The Russian defense ministry says it plans to reduce the number of generals from 1,500 last January to 1,200 by the end of this year, and the number of colonels from 37,000 at the first of this year to 20,000 at the end of it.--Stephen V Cole

November 20; The US has expressed official concern that the Russian invasion of Chechnya could threaten the independence of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. --Stephen V Cole

November 19; Russia has resumed firing large rockets (Scud and SS-21) into Grozny. Over sixty of these missiles have been used so far. Russia has agreed to allow outside monitors to visit Chechnya and nearby areas to observe how Russia wages war and deals with the refugees.

November 19; Russian aircraft are making 100+ combat sorties over Chechnya every day, mostly using precision-guided weapons.--Stephen V Cole

November 18; Russia reported that about a hundred Chechen fighters had infiltrated into areas of Chechnya that Russian troops had already cleared. The Chechens are operating in groups of ten to twelve men and armed with assault rifles, machineguns and grenade launchers. This makes life more difficult, and dangerous, for Russian support troops and reinforcements moving towards the front or operating supply and maintenance tasks behind the combat troops.

November 17; Russia is moving firmly to sell advanced weapons to Syria, and the Syrians want the arms (specifically including hot new fighters like the Su-27 that could challenge Israeli Air Supremacy). And yet there are problems. The Syrians still owe Russia $ 11 billion for weapons bought decades ago, and this debt remains a serious matter of dispute. The Syrians are refusing to pay any of the $11 billion, saying that part of it is for weapons and since Syria was a strategic ally who served Russia's interests, they should not have to pay for the weapons. The rest of the money is for construction work the Russians did inside Syria, and the Syrians say that the work is substandard and violates the contracts, so it does not have to pay for this either. Current plans seem to be to write off 80% of the debt and let the Syrians pay for the rest in exported products rather than in cash. The Syrians have little cash for new weapons (and so are seeking credit terms). Russia, on the other hand, is desperate for cash and its primary interest in any arms sale is raising money not conducting foreign policy. The US has previously imposed sanctions on three Russian companies that sold anti-tank missiles to Syria, and Washington has threatened massive and sweeping sanctions in retaliation for any large arms sales. And finally, any change in the military balance would affect the Arab-Israeli peace process, and the Russians do not want to take the blame for a collapse of this process. --Stephen V Cole

November 17; Just to show they are still in business, a Typhoon class Russian ballistic missile sub in the Arctic ocean has  fired two ICBMs 3,100 miles. Meanwhile, in response to the situation in Chechnya, and the Chechen proclivity for surprise operations, Russia has increased security at key sites (military bases, government offices, power plants, transportation, etc.) Russian troops in Chechnya captured Bamut, a key town and one stoutly defended by the Chechens. Other heavily defended villages and towns are being systematically surrounded, bombed to rubble and taken. Many in the West are criticizing the Russians for this approach, although it is one long favored by Western nations, particularly because it spares your own troops, even if it harder on local civilians. Russia also prefers this approach because of the fragile morale of their armed forces and the huge stocks of ammunition left over from the Cold War.

November 17; Extremist gunmen dissatisfied with government economic policies stormed the Armenian parliament on 27 Oct, killing PM Vazgen Sarkisian and Speaker Karen Demirchian (along with six others). They took hostages but surrendered when President Kocharian promised them a fair trial and guaranteed their personal safety. Armenia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is still an ally, or client state, of Russia. Unrest in Armenia can cause Russia problems because of nations bordering Armenia (especially Turkey and Azerbaijan) that Russia wants to maintain good relations with.--Stephen V Cole

November 16;  Russia is upgrading its naval support facilities in the Syrian port of Tartus. This port has long been the base for Russians Mediterranean flotilla. 

November 16; The Russian Defense Ministry said on 1 Nov that intelligence data indicated that the Taliban government of Afghanistan was sending 600 warriors and 24 Stinger missiles to Chechnya. --Stephen V Cole

November 15; Russia announced that 192 of their soldiers have been killed in Chechnya so far, and 482 wounded. Over 200,000 Chechen refugees have fled the fighting and the Chechens claim over 4,000 civilians have been killed so far. Russia estimates that some 6,000 Chechen fighters are defending Grozny. Over 100,000 Russian troops are now in Chechnya. 

November 15; Ukraine has agreed to sell Russia eight of its 19 Tu-160 Blackjack jet bombers and three of its 25 Tu-95MS Bear turboprop bombers. The others were judged by the Russians as not worth buying, having been improperly stored by the Ukrainians. The Russians will also buy 500 of the 1,612 Kh-55 air-to-surface missiles the Soviet Air Force left in Ukraine when the USSR collapsed. The Russians will pay the Ukrainians $285 million, to be deducted from the $1.5 billion that Ukraine owes Russia for natural gas.--Stephen V Cole

November 14; Russian troops are inside the heavily defended western Chechen town of Bamut. The Russians have been bombing and shelling the town for several weeks, and want to take it because it has long been a military base for Chechens. The provincial capital, Grozny, is now surrounded and being shelled and bombed daily. The Chechens claim nearly 5,000 civilians have been killed by the Russian attacks and are playing up the civilian losses to the global media in order to put some diplomatic pressure on the Russians. This does not appear to be working so far.

November 13; Russia closed its last military outpost in the Baltic Republics (the Skrunda radar station in Latvia) on 21 October.--Stephen V Cole

November 13; Russia will base 20 Su-24 Fencer strike fighters at Gvardeyskoye, a Ukrainian air base on the Crimea which the Russians have leased. Ukraine held up deployment of the Fencers for two years until it was convinced that they were no longer nuclear capable. The 43rd Independent Naval Aviation Attack Squadron has traded in its old Su-17s for the new Su-24s. --Stephen V Cole




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