Russia: October 18, 1999


: Russian troops have moved to the outskirts of the Chechen capitol, Grozny, with some units less than twenty kilometers from the city. The Russians say they have lost 47 dead and 33 wounded in the last week, and killed some 2,000 Chechens. But the Chechens say they have killed 1,500 Russian troops and lost 32 of their own soldiers, plus more than 2,000 Chechen civilians dead from the Russian bombing. The Russians typically consider casualty figures a state secret. Their losses during World War II (20 million civilians and 10 million troops) were not released until a few years ago, fifty years after the war ended.

October 18; Swiss investigators have frozen 59 bank accounts held by 24 Russians under investigation for embezzling millions from government coffers.--Stephen V Cole

October 18; RUSSIAN FORCES IN THE DAGESTAN CAMPAIGN; The Russian Defense Ministry assembled a powerful force of well-paid and well-led light infantry to drive the Chechen rebels out of Dagestan during August-September. These included:

+ A battalion from the 22nd Spetznaz Brigade

+ the 234th Parachute Battalion from the 76th Guards Airborne Division (Pskov)

+ A reinforced parachute battalion from the 7th Guards Air Assault Division

+ A reinforced parachute battalion from the 31st Air Assault Brigade

+ An airmobile battalion from the 21st Independent Assault Landing Brigade

+ A combined battalion from the 336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade

+ the entire 205th Motor Rifle Brigade

+ One regiment and the artillery regiment from the 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division

+ the 102nd Interior Troops Brigade

+ a regiment from the Interior Troops Brigade based in Nizhny Novgorod

+ Anti-Terrorist Detachment "Rus" (from Moscow)

+ Dagestan Republic OMON (special police unit)

+ Various special police, rapid response, and other elite police units from all of southern Russia

+ Dagestani Militia Volunteer Force (village guards)

+ 487th Independent Helicopter Regiment

At first glance it might appear that the Russians are repeating the mistakes of the Chechen War, when an entire division would be stripped of troops to send a hastily-organized regiment with poor internal cohesion into combat. The Russians have at least learned to avoid that error. Now, instead of maintaining all units of a division or brigade at low strength and cobbling together a full-strength sub-unit when it is time for combat, each division keeps one regiment (and each independent brigade keeps one battalion) at something approaching full strength and training. The remainder of the units are used to gather up those soldiers found unserviceable for various reasons and keep them out of the way. This bodes well for sending cohesive units into combat, but indicates that the true strength of the entire Russian defense establishment may be less than 1/3 of its Table of Organization.--Stephen V Cole

October 18; Russia is walking a diplomatic tightrope in its war against Chechnya. A significant portion of the world's Moslems regard all members of their faith as "one nation" and an attack on Moslems in Chechnya directly translates into Moslem citizens of a dozen countries pressuring their governments not to be so chummy with Moscow. The Russians are scrambling to shore up key diplomatic links with Arab and other Moslem countries by giving them political support (Russia cannot afford to give them financial support) and cutting good deals on arms sales.--Stephen V Cole

October 18; The FBI has offered to help Russia track down and shut down Internet web sites run by Islamic rebels in the Caucasus.--Stephen V Cole

October 18; Hackers at the Russian Academy of Science, apparently with the backing of the Russian government, succeeded in penetrating the Pentagon's computers to steal information on naval codes and missile guidance systems. The incident was so serious that all DoD employees were ordered to change their passwords.--Stephen V Cole




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