Russia: December 31, 1999


Russian president Boris Yeltsin surprised everyone by resigning during a New Years Eve speecj. His popular prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was appointed acting president pending mandatory presidential elections in 90 days. Russian troops continue to grind their way into Grozny. Although the government had hoped the city could be secured by the end of the year, there was no attempt to push the troops (and take a lot of casualties) to do so. The emphasis on low casualties has kept morale high among the troops, enabling them to keep fighting efficiently. The troops are confident that their methodical tactics will eventually bring them victory, and they will live to see it. This approach is very popular with the Russian people, who can appreciate the suffering of the troops, but would oppose too many of them getting killed. Russian troops have encountered more rebels in the hills south of Grozny, and more combat is being seen there.

December 30; Russia admits to some 600 troops killed and 1,600 wounded since August in Chechnya. This does not include bodies too mangled to be identified, nor troops who are missing. Thus the death toll could be close to a thousand. Still, the number of dead has not been high enough to cause popular unrest. Meanwhile, more fighting has broken out in the hills to the  south of Grozny.

December 29; Russian infantry, combat engineers and armored vehicles carefully worked their way into Grozny. By all estimates, there are still a few thousand armed Chechen still defending the city, as well as perhaps 40,000 civilians cowering in basements. The Chechens have laid many booby traps and mines, as well as establishing firing positions for snipers. Unlike five years ago, when the Russians last tried to take the city, the Russian infantry is better trained and professional. This means that they know how to advance into a mined area (slowly and carefully). Combat engineers move along, and often in front of, the infantry to clear mines and booby traps. In some cases, plows are mounted on armored vehicles to just move mines, and obstacles, aside. The Chechen snipers can be dealt with if your infantry are well enough trained. The Russians appear equipped to do this, quickly spotting and firing on snipers, and then working around the sniper position to force the sniper to withdraw (which the Chechens will do, they are not suicidal), or be killed. But the key Russian tactic is to use a lot of firepower. Artillery and bombs will be poured on areas mined or containing defenders. Tanks and artillery firing directly at their targets will be used to clear out snipers. Using these tactics the Russians are now within about 2,000 meters of the city center. The Chechen defenders are cut off from resupply and will soon run short of ammunition for their mortars and machineguns.

December 28; Russian troops invading Chechnya this time have learned the lessons of the previous fiasco. Command is entirely in the hands of the Army, with Border Guards and Interior Ministry troops taking orders from Army corps commanders. The invasion force was much larger, and the spearhead units had reliable infantry battalions drawn from elite units. Unlike the first invasion force, which lost momentum trying to chase every guerrilla in sight up a mountain, the new invasion force stuck to the roads and wider valleys, establishing control over the main communications routes before sending picked infantry units after the guerrillas. Prime Minister Putin is personally running much of the campaign. General Nikolai Kazantsev, an ambitious general looking for a triumph, is in overall command. His political officer is Nikolai Koshman, the federal governor of Chechnya (who led the puppet regime ousted by the Chechens when the first war began). The eastern invasion force is led by Lieutenant General Genaddi Troshev, a bloodthirsty officer who commanded a brigade in the first invasion and is out for revenge. He commanded the troops that cleaned out the rebels in Ingushetia, and had to be pulled out of that province when the local government complained of his systematic brutality. --Stephen V Cole

December 28; Thousands of Russian troops are operating in the mountains south of Grozny. The Russians are going after rebel hideouts and supply dumps. The Chechens are preparing for a guerilla war, and to do so they have, or still are, hiding arms and ammunition in mountain hideouts. The Russians realized this early on and have applied a lot of air reconnaissance and electronic intelligence effort to keep an eye on what is going on up in the hills. Warplanes are using FAE (Fuel Aur Explosives) to destroy rebel bases in caves or stonework villages. FAE is tricky to use, as it's effectiveness is dependant on low, or no, wind. The bomb releases a large cloud of explosive gas and then detonates it. In addition to an enormous explosive effect, an FAE at the mouth of a cave will such most of the oxygen out of the cave, killing or disabling anyone in the cave.




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