Russia: December 15, 1999


A Russian armored column was reported (by Chechens and Western reporters in the city) to have been shot up in a town square where the same thing happened during the 1994 fighting. Russia denied that such a battle took place, and the reporters were not able to produce any pictures or video to back up their claims.

December 14; Russia announced a successful test of the new Topol M ICBM. A solid fuel missile (unlike most earlier, liquid fuel ICBMs), the Topol M (or SS-27) has been in development for most of the 1990s. It can be fired from silos or truck or railroad car launchers. The design was declared ready for production in 1995, but Russia has lacked the money to do so. But existing ICBMs are growing older and more expensive to maintain. So eventually the Russians will have to find several billion dollars to manufacture the new missile or cease to be a major nuclear power.

December 13; Russian infantry continued to close in on Gorzny. Shelling was stopped for several hours to allow civilians to flee the city, but Russia has not followed up on it's threat (last week) to pulverize the city after the 11th. Instead, Russian troops have been working their way towards the city, taking the airport today. Russia will continue to have daily ceasefires of six hours to enable civilians to get out of the city. So it appears that the Russians still intend to use firepower to destroy the city's defenders if the city is not surrendered first.

December 12; Russia reported that federal troops had taken control over the nuclear waste site near Gudermes in Chechnya. Russia said that Chechen terrorists had often threatened to extract waste from the site and use it to create "contamination bombs".--Stephen V Cole

December 12; Russian General Leonid Ivachev, the Defense Ministry official in charge of international cooperation, said that NATO was "seeking to prepare public opinion" for the deployment of nuclear weapons into Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Ivachev said that "the Russian response will be tough". --Stephen V Cole

December 11; The Russian government has agreed to seek permission from Kazakhstan for all launches at Baikonour, not just civilian commercial launches as is now the case. The Russian military is reportedly upset that the government has agreed to this long-standing Kazakh demand.--Stephen V Cole

December 10; The government revealed that it had been holding secret talks with Chechen leaders, but that these discussions had not produced anything concrete. The major problem with the Chechen leadership is that it is divided into many antagonistic factions. What pleases one group, displeases another.

December 9; A commission appointed by the Russian Duma has compiled a report on NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia (i.e., the bombing campaign) and has forwarded this to the UN war crimes tribunal.--Stephen V Cole

December 9; Russia has ordered US diplomat Cheri Leberknight, arrested on 1 Dec for "trying to obtain classified documents" from a government official, to leave the country within 10 days. The US said it would comply with the order but refused to comment on the truth of the allegations. --Stephen V Cole

December 9; Hundreds of Russian armored vehicles and trucks carrying ammunition were seen moving towards the western outskirts of Grozny, indicating that the the announced offensive after December 11th was likely to take place. Normally, this many vehicles would not be brought so close to the front lines unless they were going to be used. Otherwise, these vehicles, especially the trucks carrying ammunition, would be vulnerable to raids by Chechen fighters inside Grozny. Meanwhile, the number of Chechen refugees fleeing the fighting has passed the 250,000 mark. In other works, more than 20 percent of the Chechen population has fled. Russian units were also ready to enter the last of the Chechen towns outside Grozny. Shali (20 kilometers southeast of Grozny) was heavily defended, but the civilians inside the town have assured the Russians that the armed men defending the town have left. Russian recon units are moving into the town to confirm this before infantry move in to occupy the place.

December 8; A Russian diplomat was arrested in Washington DC for trying to monitor a bug earlier placed in a State Department conference room. The Russian agent has diplomatic immunity and will be expelled from the US.

December 8; After failing to get $200 million in government aid, US Enrichment Corporation agreed to continue buying Russian uranium from dismantled nuclear warheads and reprocessing it into low-enriched reactor fuel. USEC has found the deal to be less profitable than it expected, due to higher costs, a falling market for uranium, and a long-term contract that has the company paying the Russians $88 per "unit" for uranium that is available on the world market for $80. Republican Congressmen have been critical of the program since it started, and cite their own studies from years ago foreseeing (correctly) that expectations of huge profits were grossly oversold. However, if USEC backed out of the deal or went out of business, the entire program of getting Russian nuclear weapons dismantled could come unglued. The Russians insist on cash for the dismantled warheads as the only way they can afford to take more of them out of service. --Stephen V Cole

December 8; Grozny was hit by continuous rocket and artillery fire, as well as 90 bomber sorties and 60 by attack helicopters. Some outlying towns (to the south of Grozny) were also hit with air strikes. The Russians have also said they might leave the escape road open for civilians beyond the current deadline of December 11th. A Russian commander also made an odd "clarification" of the Grozny ultimatum. General Viktor Kazantsev said the Chechen fighters had to leave Grozny by December 11th. He did not say how the fighters remaining in Grozny would be killed by artillery and bombing without injuring any of the remaining 40,000 civilians. Russia has been taking a lot of heat from the rest of the world for its operations in Chechnya. Curiously, no one has come up with any suggestions as to what different tactics would subdue the province, eliminate the terrorism and keep down casualties among Russian troops.




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