July 24, 2002
Colonel Boris Podoprigora, deputy commander of the unified federal troops group, told the press on 19 July that the North Caucasus command is taking extra measures to prevent terrorist acts that Chechen rebels plan to stage in early August. These acts are allegedly timed for Russian Airborne Forces Day (2 August) and the sixth anniversary of Grozny's invasion by Maskhadov's units (6 August 1996).
The staff did not rule out that the rebels may be preparing acts of sabotage in neighboring regions as well. For instance, a ZIL-130 vehicle loaded with explosives and electric detonators was found in a garage in Nevinnomyssk on 19 July, which authorities believe was part of a potential terrorist act. The explosives in the vehicle were equivalent to 800 kilos of TNT and could have caused extensive damage within 500 meters of the blast. An investigation has been initiated, although rebels are already suspected.
The terrorist acts may include an assault on a village or town, as well as attacks on visiting representatives of international humanitarian organizations, possibly by rebels dressed in federal uniforms. New federal uniforms were found in four caches throughout Chechnya last week. People of Slavic origin are being lured into working in Chechnya under dubious contracts, while the rebels have also approached ethnic Chechens serving in police service and construction workers coming from other parts of the country.
Three rebel groups comprising up to 40 fighters have crossed into Chechnya from Georgia's Pankisi gorge since 15 July and are hiding in the Shatoi district. They have a huge amount of small arms, ammo and medicines, as well as about 30 "Stinger" MANPADs. - Adam Geibel