Russia: May 19, 2003


The Georgian Armed Forces are due to start their "Kakheti 2003" exercise in the volatile Pankisi gorge soon. The exercise was supposed to begin in early May, but was postponed due to lack of funds and "will eventually take place in the near future". The Georgians know they can't postpone the exercise much longer, since the snow is now thawing in the mountain passes and the chances that the Chechen rebels making use of that to slip Georgia is growing with each day. Based on interviews with rebel prisoners, Russian intelligence has estimated that there may be up 700 rebels in the Pankisi Gorge who sporadically take part in hostilities in Chechnya, then slip over the border into Georgia. - Adam Geibel

Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev took credit for the two suicide bombings in the last week and promises more. Most of the people killed in these attacks were Chechens, as the war in Chechnya has turned into a civil war, where the Chechens willing to make peace with Russia are fighting those who are willing to fight to the death for Chechen independence. Chechnya had de facto independence in the late 1990s, but lost it when the province fell under the control of criminal gangs and an al Qaeda related group that insisted on invading neighboring areas to start the formation of an Islamic Republic in the region. This brought the Russians in. 


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