The Chechen-Georgian border is heating up, with the Russian military reporting 17 contacts with rebels between 26 and 28 July. About 200 rebels have infiltrated, with three groups (comprising up to 40 fighters) crossing into Chechnya's Shatoi district from the Pankisi gorge within the last week.
About 100 militants led by rebel field commander Ruslan Gelayev were spotted trying to break into Chechnya from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, by North Caucasus regional border guard 14th department troops over the 27-28 July weekend. The group of young men (aged 19 to 26 years) appeared in villages in the Pankisi Gorge about two weeks ago disguised as refugees, and many reportedly had Soviet passports, most of which were time-expired. When Georgian policemen tried to detain these rebels, they threatened to take local residents hostage.
A running battle started, with 180 border guards and Defense Ministry special-purpose units blocked the the rebels' possible routes and claimed 13 of them killed 27-28 July. Aviation was particularly active on the 28th. SU-24 "Fencer" fighter-bombers flew ten strike sorties, destroying three rebel strongpoints, a retransmitter and two mobile camps were destroyed. MI-24 Hind fire support helicopters flew over 20 missions in forest-covered mountains, while MI-8 Hip helicopter made five surveillance sorties. They hit two rebel camps in the Argun gorge, destroying four dug-outs, two KamAZ trucks and one ammo storehouse with a missile strike.
A tactical landing party of the 56th Airborne Assault Regiment was dropped in the mountainous part of the district on the afternoon of the 28th, engaging a group of 60 Chechen rebels coming from Georgia across the Russian state border near the Kent village (Itum-Kale district) at 03:55 Moscow time on 29 July. Three rebels were killed and two Spetsnaz were wounded. A huge amount of arms and ammo was confiscated, including portable SAM systems and antitank grenade launchers.
Ten rebels were killed and five captured.
Meanwhile, the Russians claim that civilians in the Itum-Kale region are tired of the rebels using their villages as transit points and are refusing to cooperate with them. The Federals also claim that no civilians were hurt in the latest operations. - Adam Geibel