Russia: June 19, 2002

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Georgian Security Minister Valery Khaburzaniya has confirmed the detention of a Land Cruiser jeep loaded with armaments in the vicinity of Tbilisi in the early morning hours of 18 June. Georgian State Security Ministry official Simon Mchedlidze was at the wheel and accompanied by a Russian citizen (named Artur or Anton Lutkov) when they were stopped by police in Mtskheta. The vehicle contained three anti-tank missile launchers, nine anti-tank missiles and three grenade launchers, as well as an unknown quantity of unspecified drugs. The total cost of the confiscated arms was approximately $300,000 to $500,000.

According to preliminary reports, the car had left Tskhinvali and was heading for the Pankisi Gorge, although the destination was later stated to be Tbilisi. Khaburzaniya said that there was "no reason to say that the shipment was done in the direction of Pankisi Gorge".The Land Cruiser allegedly belongs to the Georgian crime boss Shakro Kalashov, who introduced the Russian to the security officer. Mchedlidze's partner lives in Moscow and may be linked to Russian special services. The investigation has so far been unable to establish much about the Russian, apart from his identity.

Mchedlidze used to work in the Interior Ministry military police as a sergeant and the government protection service for two years. He has been at the Security Ministry since March. The head of Mtskheta-Mtianeti police told Georgian TV that the Security Ministry major had been Shakro Kalashov's driver for about five years. - Adam Geibel

The Russian Ministry for Civil Defense and Emergencies said that between 1 January and 18 May 2002, more than 300 civilians in Chechnya were wounded by mine blasts. In 2001, mine explosions wounded 1,875 people, of whome 1,020 were hospitalized. An unnamed ministry official figured that this number was actually much lower than the real number of casualties. 

Sappers conduct mine clearing operations, but the work was done slowly due to various reasons. According to the North Caucasus joint group of forces press service, troops demined 100 hectares of arable land and destroyed 1,500 explosive devices since December 2001. According to Agriculture Ministry data, up to 100,000 hectares of arable land still need mine clearing.

In addition to mine fields left over from both wars, more fields and individual mines appear every day. In the last week alone, rebels blasted seven combat vehicles and checkpoints, while another 30 landmines were disarmed by engineering and reconnaissance parties. The rebels are also trying to spread mine warfare into Dagestan. Sappers disarmed three landmines near the Duchi and Charavali villages last week and there have been attempts to plant bombs in other border villages. The Federal command decided to scale up engineering reconnaissance in Dagestan's districts adjacent to the Chechen republic and to reinforce their coverage of the Dagestani administrative border.

 

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