Russia: May 7, 2002


As weather conditions improve, mountain gorges and passes open, Federal army aviation scaled up their activity in Chechnya. Army aviation is broken into four mission groups; air strikes are flown by MI-24 Hind helicopters, landing and transport missions by MI-8 Hip and MI-26 Halos, while both reconnaissance and special missions (Spetsnaz insertions) by MI-8s and MI-24s. The Russians claim that the majority of the sorties are for intelligence, transport of wounded and sick servicemen, or provision of assistance to locals.

On 7 May, Army aviation helicopters "dispersed" three rebel groups in the mountains, destroying two arms caches, a rebel base and four vehicles including one with high cargo capacity. The helicopters had been supporting Federal and law-enforcement Spetsnaz, near the villages of Alleroi, Sayasan, Engenoi, Aslanbek-Sheripovo and Itum-Kale as well as near the mouth of the Sharoargun River. Gunships escorted 12 military convoys and other columns, while transport helicopters flew over 30 sorties carrying 60 servicemen and over 14t of cargo. 

In the North Caucasus, Defense Ministry, Emergencies Ministry, Federal Border Guard Service and other agencies' helicopter crews are under single command, which simplifies command, supply and operations. Helicopters engaged in the anti-guerrilla campaign are 100 percent operational, while those outside of Chechnya vary from 30 to 60 percent (depending on the base region). - Adam Geibel

With the mountain snow melting and the passes opening in May, the Russian military is strengthening the Chechen strip of the Russo-Georgian border in order to prevent possible rebel crossing attempts. The Kremlin estimates that there are about 300 to 400 Chechen rebels and Arab "mercenaries" in the Georgian Pankisi gorge. 

Once in-country, the rebels are expected to intensify their activities (especially in the highlands) by planting mines on Federal convoy routes and ambushing columns, as well as posing as representatives of law-enforcement agencies during their subsequent operations. 

Field commander Yusup's rebel group is ready to slip into Chechnya from the Pankisi gorge, particularly at the Sharo-Argun section. According to available information, Yusup's formation musters 20 to 25 fighters. They are mostly from the southeastern Chechen districts, including both veterans and raw recruits. Before leaving for Georgia, the Yusup group specialized in sabotage acts in the Sharoi and Vedeno districts.

In order to prevent rebels from crossing into Chechnya, Federal forces planted minefields on their possible entry routes and stepped surveillance over various parts of the border using technical reconnaissance means (including aircraft) at night. 

Units of the 45th Separate Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment stationed in the area are carrying out intensive and reconnaissance operations, as well as organizing ambushes on possible border crossing routes. 

Russian Air Borne Troops Commander Col. Gen. Georgy Shpak told Itar-Tass on 7 May that there were about 70 small groups (each from five to 25 fighters) active in Chechnya. Most of them were in Grozny, Gudermes, Shali, Achkhoi-Martan and the highlands. - Adam Geibel

In Chechnya, dead bodies of civilians continue to show up without explanation. It is thought that most of the victims are either people the rebels thought were working for the Russians, or kidnap victims Russian soldiers snatched and then found out that no ransom could be obtained (victims family was broke.) The Russian army and police commanders have, so far, been unable to stamp out the criminal activities of some of their men (kidnapping, extortion and looting.) It was also announced today that several million dollars (at least) allocated in 2000 for rebuilding Chechnya, has been embezzled. 



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