Russia: June 18, 2002


: Georgian Main Military Prosecutor Georgy Dzhikiya told the press on 18 June that Major Vazha Kutashvili, commander of a 11th Motorized Rifle Brigade's tank battalion, was arrested on suspicion of arms theft (13 PKT tank machine-guns and 24 radio stations) and that the court sanctioned preliminary imprisonment for a period of three months. Earlier reports said that arms stolen from the Vaziani base had been transferred to Chechen rebels in the Pankisi gorge, but investigators failed to prove that yet. The Georgian parliament defense and security committee is planning to hold a session behind closed doors on 21 June to hear reports of the chief military prosecutor, defense minister, state security minister and Military Counterintelligence Service chief on the progress of the investigation. - Adam Geibel

Both the Federal forces and Chechen rebel command staff reported several serious clashes on 17 June. Whether this was just the haphazard byproduct of the Russians poking around in rebel nests or a rebel coordinated action straight out of an Asymmetrical Warfare handbook is anyone's guess right now.

The rebels noted that they detonated a land mine and two MON-100 AP mines (large, 'Claymore'-type weapons) near Khankala, in the path of a convoy of three Ural lorries and two armored personnel carriers. The column was then swept with automatic weapons fire for 20 minutes and the rebels claimed that at least 11 Russians were killed on the spot and about 20 wounded. One Ural lorry was burnt up and one APC disabled. Despite the proximity of a Russian post, the rebels claim that it took 30 minutes for Federal reinforcements to arrive from Khankala.

ITAR-Tass reported that twelve federal servicemen were wounded during a special operation in the settlement of Chechen-Aul (10 km south of Grozny), which is located on the militarily-important road between Grozny and Shali. The rebels hiding in the settlement often laid mines on the nearby section of that road and attacked military convoys. Up to 50 gunmen (most of them age 18 to 20) from Rizvan Akhmadov's group in the settlement offered fierce resistance. Federal forces reported one new tactic: that some fighters were wearing belts filled with trinitrotoluene (TNT) and when threatened with arrest, were setting off these belts. A Russian serviceman was wounded in such an explosion and a 24 year old rebel named Saidail Idamov killed while attempting to throw a grenade at federal servicemen was wearing a TNT belt.

Law enforcement agencies later reported five rebels killed while resisting federal troops, 20 people detained and a large amount of weapons confiscated in the large-scale Interior Ministry operation that started a week ago. Regional operations headquarters spokesman Colonel Igor Shabalkin considered the Chechen-Aul mission one of the most productive operations conducted recently. 

The rebel denied losing the 20 fighters over the last 24 hours that the Kremlin claimed, and accused the Russians of attempting to hide the death of civilians in Chechen-Aul, where what they describe as a bloody punitive action is under way. Chechen sources claim that 10 civilians were killed (including two 15-year-old children) and that about 100 people were taken hostage. They also claim that at least 10 civilians were killed near Kurchaloy by Russian fire.

The rebels described an attack on another Federal column between the villages of Serzhen-Yurt and Tsa-Vedeno. An APC and two vehicles carrying militia of the "national traitor" (pro-Moscow Chechen) Yamadayev were at the head of the column, acting as "live shields" (according to the rebels). The rebels fired on them with machine-guns and grenade launchers for almost 40 minutes, claiming to kill at least nine "aggressors and national traitors" on the spot. The two vehicles were burnt up and the APC knocked out.

More fighting took place on 17 June in the vicinity of Kotar-Yurt village (Achkhoy-Martanovskiy District). The Ingush "Khamza" special subunit of the special purpose Islamic regiment "Amir Khamzat" ambushed a Russian reconnaissance group, claiming three killed on spot and five wounded, as well as capturing arms and returning to their base without losses.

Interfax noted that a Federal armored vehicle hit a homemade bomb in Novaya Zhizn village (Kurchaloi district), wounding one professional soldier and a local military commandant's office officer. Both were taken to hospital and village police launched an investigation.

There were four clashes between the federal force and the rebels on 16 June. The Russians conducted 10 search operations that day, destroying three makeshift explosive devices and more than 30 illegal oil refineries. The rebels set off a radio-controlled land mine attached to a roadside tree as a Border troops convoy was passing through the village of Prigorodnoye (Grozny rural district), wounding one serviceman. 

Both the Chechens and Russians quickly got out their own versions of the fight near Kurchaloi, that most-violent encounter of the day. The Russians claimed that up to 50 rebels (including Arab mercenaries) fought against federal servicemen on a special operation and that while nine rebels were killed, no servicemen were wounded. The Chechens said that after blowing up an APC and an infantry transporter with radio-controlled contact mines, they opened fire with small arms. Their count was three vehicles knocked out and 14 Russians killed the one-hour battle, before they left the battleground. Their admitted losses were two killed and four wounded 'Chechen soldiers'.

As a result of the recent skirmishing, Federal forces "tapped" (or blockaded) several roads in Chechnya in the wake of escalation of sabotage activities in the Vedeno and Grozny rural districts: between Grozny and the Chechen-Aul, as well as between Prigorodnoye and Gikalovskoye villages. - Adam Geibel

Police arrested six deserters from the Russian peacekeeping force in Georgia (South Ossetia.) Either soldiers had deserted with their weapons earlier in the day.


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