Russia: August 10, 1999


Russian troops drove Islamic rebels out of two Dagestan villages and have surrounded two others. The fighting was not heavy, with the rebels moving back in the face of advancing Russian infantry. A Russian gunship shot up its own troops by accident, killing four and wounding seventeen. The rebels in Dagestan have announced that they are the Islamic Shura and have declared an independent Dagestan in the territory (three villages) they occupy.

August 9; The leaders of the Islamic rebels fighting Russian troops in Dagestan are reported to be Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev (who was prime minister of Chechnya from January to July, 1998, and who led a daring raid in southern Russia, in June 1995, taking 1,000 people hostage until he negotiated free passage back to Chechnya) and a Jordanian known as Khottab (a Wahabite leader who joined the Chechen side during the 1994-96 war, and is reported as the organizer of military training camps in Chechnya). Many Arabs, Africans, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Russians are reported to be with the rebels. Basayev is also in rebellion against the current president of Chechnya's; Aslan Maskhadov. Today's fighting resulted in four Russian (local Dagestan troops) dead and fifteen wounded. Some 40 rebels were reported to have died as well, plus an unknown number of rebel wounded. The Russian armed forces chief of staff also escaped an assassination attempt while visiting Dagestan. His helicopter was shot at and damaged. Thousands of additional Russian troops are moving into Dagestan. Some 4,000 civilians have fled the combat zone.

August 8; It is now believed that up to 2,000 rebels have crossed into Dagestan and taken possession of four villages near the Chechen border. Russian forces are attacking one group of 500 rebels with artillery and gunships. The rebels are largely Dagestani Moslems of the militant Suni Wahhabi sect (the same one that helped the al-Saud family conquer Saudi Arabia in the 1920s.) The rebels demand that Dagestan and Chechnya be merged into a single Islamic state.

August 7; Some 200-500 additional rebels crossed from Chechnya into Dagestan and seized and fortified three villages. The villages were soon under attack by Russian infantry and gunships.

August 3; A force of 40-50 Chechen rebels attacked a Russian border post in Dagestan. Three policeman, one Interior Ministry soldier were killed, as well as seven rebels. Five more Russians were wounded, and three were reported missing. Other rebels fled to nearby villages. One of them was reported to be Arab speaking. Russia has sent additional troops to the area, including helicopter gunship and artillery units.

August 2; Gunfire was reported on the Dagestan border with Chechnya. One death and one injury was reported. The incident is linked to attempts by Muslim fundamentalists to establish Dagestan as an independent Islamic state.

July 1; Russia held its largest wargames since the collapse of the USSR on 21-27 June. Operation West 99 "defended" against an attack by NATO, and included the Baltic fleet and troops from Belarus. Russia has expressed alarm that NATO is taking seriously offers by Azerbaijan and Georgia to set up NATO bases there and extend NATO influence in the Caucasus. The Russian military was promised a $5.6 billion budget in 1999, but quickly realized that it would be lucky to get just the $2.8 billion needed to pay salaries and another billion to provide for maintenance and a handful of new weapons. Even that amount has not materialized, as the huge Russian debts are siphoning up every available rouble out of the treasury. As of 26 May, the Russian military had actually been given only $1.26 billion, about $400 million less than the minimum. --Stephen V Cole


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