Russia: December 7, 1999

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The day after the Russian ultimatum for civilians to get out of Grozny, the city was heavily bombarded. Civilians who did leave said most people in the city were afraid to leave. The shelling and bombing made movement dangerous, and many Chechens did not trust the Russians. Meanwhile, as Russian infantry get closer to Grozny, the Chechen defenders are more likely to come out at night and raid the Russian positions. While some Russian units have night vision equipment, most don't. Interestingly, Russian infantry units under attack at night have to wait up to two hours for their own artillery to deliver defensive fire.

December 6; Russian troops cut the remaining roads into Grozny. Russia has dropped leaflets into Grozny telling the civilians to get out by December 11th, for after that date no one would be allowed to leave the city. Safe passage was offered the civilians who wanted to leave, and the Russians said that they had surrounded Grozny and would soon begin a final assault. The Russians are apparently ready to take control of the entire province and then deal with the guerilla war that would follow. The Russians have dealt with this in Chechnya before, but it will not a pretty sight if the Russians use the techniques that worked in the past. The Russian approach to pacification comes down to killing everyone in sight when they meet resistance. Eventually, the Chechens realize they either stop the guerilla fighting, or see most of the population killed. In the past, the Russians also settled many armed Russians (Cossacks) in the province, to keep an eye on things and report who was liable to act up.

December 6; The Russian newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya has accused the Russian military of picking Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to be the "new Napoleon" in a "Bonapartist dictatorship". The newspaper notes that conditions in Russia are bad and getting worse, and that the people are likely to support a strong leader, even a dictator, who appears to be able to make progress.--Stephen V Cole

December 5; Russia plans to withdraw the last 150 troops from duty in Turkmenistan by early next year. The troops (all that is left of a force that numbered 3,000 in 1984) are deployed on the Afghan and Iranian borders. Turkmenistan has steadily been distancing itself from Russia; it pulled out of a bilateral visa-free zone pact last March. --Stephen V Cole

December 4; Russian infantry battled their way into the heavily defended outskirts of Argun, a town lying astride one of the two remaining roads into Grozny. Russian tactics stress minimizing their casualties, which means using a lot of artillery and tight control of their infantry units (which also reduces the risk of friendly fire losses.)


December 4; The 27 Oct assassination of the Armenian Prime Minister and Parliamentary Speaker has left the government of Armenian President Kocharian unstable, and from this instability has come a major change in Armenian policy. The change was the dramatic surprise of the OSCE summit, in that Armenia suddenly diverted from its policy since 1991 and announced that it would support a regional security pact that would force all Russian troops out of the Caucasus. Armenia has, for as long as it has been independent, supported the presence of Russian troops in the region. Kocharian was joined in his call for a regional pact by his arch-enemy, Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliyev. Such a pact would include the Caucasus states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) along with Turkey, the US, and Russia. Kocharian's sudden policy shift included a call for better relations with Turkey, the most hated enemy of the Armenians. Kocharian said he could never forgive Turkey for the deaths of 600,000 Armenians during World War I, but that he could work around this problem to build a new relationship. Kocharian may be getting desperate. The economic blockade imposed on his country by Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey is strangling his economy. He may also be running scared that Russia plans to launch a major invasion of Georgia and Azerbaijan over the issue of Chechnya. --Stephen V Cole

December 3; The talk in Moscow is that the final offensive against Grozny will take place before the Moslem holy month of Ramadan begins on December 9th. It sounds like disinformation, although Russian commanders are speaking of soon taking Argun and thus making Grozny easier to take. Official Russian line has been that they are not going to send their infantry into Grozny and take the city block by block.


December 3; After first putting up a stiff resistance, Chechen fighters have withdrawn from the village of Argun (eight kilometers east of Grozny.) The Chechens also pulled out of the fortified village of Alkhan-Yurt, in the southwestern suburbs of the city. The Russians announced they had lost about fifty troops fighting for Argun, the Chechens admitted to some one hundred dead. The Chechens have two remaining fortified villages that provide supply lines into Grozny; Urus-Martan (20 kilometers southwest of Grozny) and Shali (20 kilometers southeast of Grozny.) Urus-Martan is already being surrounded and pounded by the Russians. When these two villages fall, Grozny will be surrounded. But not cut off. Men and materials will still be able to get through, but not in large quantities and at some risk. 

December 2; Russian infantry moved into the fortified village of Argun (eight kilometers east of Grozny) and encountered stiff resistance from Chechen defenders. Apparently, several dozen Russians were killed and many more wounded. Argun has been turned into rubble by Russian artillery and bombs.

December 1; Russian artillery and bombs pounded the fortified village of Argun as Russian infantry moved closer.

 

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