Russia: September 2, 2002


Following the successfully downing of an Mi-26 "Halo" on 19 August, Chechen rebel leaders ordered their units to wage an intensive mine and sabotage campaign, particularly in the Nozhai-Yurt, Vedeno, Achkhoi-Martan, Gudermes and Kurchaloi districts of Chechnya. Between 26 August and 2 September, the rebels detonated 23 various explosive devices. Russian sappers disarmed about 250 explosive devices, including 18 bombs during engineer reconnaissance operations. Nine roadblocks were cleared of mines and removed. 

On 29 August, two federal soldiers were injured when mines were detonated in Dyshni-Vedeno. The first was detonated while a sapper unit was returning from a helicopter strip and the second blast went off at the same location two minutes later. 
Russian forces using special "Anti-Terrorist" equipment designed to explode remote-controlled land mines as they were being set killed three rebels on the road to Shali-Agishty. The rebels allegedly receive a bonus of $1,000 to $5,000 for blowing up tanks and armored personnel carriers (which are used by the Russians to protect their supply convoys). - Adam Geibel

Two Mi-24 "Hind" gunships accompanying an Mi-8 "Hip" transport making food deliveries to units operating in mountains at15.45 local time on 31 August were attacked by a rebel antiaircraft unit 1.2 miles west of the village of Meskety in southeastern Chechnya. An Mi-24 was flying at an altitude of 50 yards when witnesses saw a flash and heard a bang. Then the helicopter began losing height, its nose banked and it fell on the ground vertically.

The rebel's press service later credited the downing to a special mobile air defense group from Amir Rabbani's unit of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Armed Forces eastern front. They apparently used an "IGLA" SA-18 Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS). Joint Task Force commander Vladimir Moltenskoy, who rushed to the scene within 20 minutes after the incident, said that one of the pilots tried to eject from the aircraft but failed. A search and rescue party evacuated both crew members' bodies.

At least six "Igla" MANPADs were delivered across the Russian-Georgian border on 27 July 2001, when the group headed by field commander Khasan broke through to Chechnya's Itum-Kalinskiy District. Current intelligence indicates that the rebels within Chechnya have a total of ten gripstock launchers, and inspections of the North Caucasus Military District's depots show none were missing. - Adam Geibel

Following up on an earlier story, the chief of the Georgian Intelligence Department named Mozdok and Armavir as the Russian bases from where the attack aircraft took off on 23 August to bomb Georgian territory. By 30 August, they were still trying to establish the identity of the pilots. However, a "well-informed source at the Georgian Defense Ministry" told the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the bombing of the Pankisi Gorge was made by a Georgian Air Force plane under direct order of the country's supreme political leadership. The website quoted a senior Georgian source on the 29th, who claimed that the pilot simply made a mistake when entering data into the targetting system, firing on Georgian peasants instead of Ruslan Gelayev`s rebel group.

The Russians counterclaimed that Georgia's Su-25KM "Scorpian" (a joint development project with Israel's Elbit Systems) is equipped with new avionics and navigation systems that allow it to fly at night, unlike the serially produced Su-25s that the Russian Air Force fly out of Mozdok. Since Georgia is attempting to promote their new Su-25 variant to the world arms market, the Russians claimed they decided to covertly test it in combat and shift the blame after the misfire occurred. 

The Russians argue that their Su-25s are unable to deal with the so-called 'twilight effect` intensified by the `mountain effect` ( which influences the radio compass and alters the navigation equipment characteristics) and therefore, couldn't have bombed the Pankisi Gorge at 0520. To take off at 0420 and fly over those mountains was not only pointless but also dangerous, but the "Scorpion" could pull off such a night-flight and Georgia has a mixture of former Soviet and state-of-the-art Western air ordnance (so the Georgian evidence of Russian-marked bomb fragments was declared unconvincing). 

Supposedly, the Scorpian's hull number ("15") was painted over before the flight with the Russian number ("32"), along with the stars and the Russian colors on the wings and fuselage. They accused Georgian Air Force Lieutenant Georgiy Rusteli of piloting the plane. After the raid the plane was delivered to the TbilAviastroitel aircraft production enterprise, where it remains (Vazha Tordiya was in charge of the delivery). An engine burnout was repaired and the Russian Air Force markings wiped off.

In Georgia, the bombing raid rallied support around President Shevardnadze and intensified anti-Russian feelings.The Georgians also claimed that the Russians were carrying out reconnaissance missions along their border and that they had deployed an additional company near the line, which without prior agreement was a violation of international agreements. Parliament called on the government to withdraw Russia's bases from the country, suspend the Russian peacekeepers' mandate in Abkhazia and leave the Commonwealth of Independent States. During his visit to the gorge, Shevardnadze promised that there were would be no more bombing raids in the area, but Georgia's military leaders apparently do not share their president's optimism and units deployed to the area are testing anti-aircraft systems. - Adam Geibel

Georgian police have arrested seven terrorist suspects in the Pankisi Gorge. All the men were believed to be Arabs.

In Chechnya, troops have surrounded 300 rebels who recently crossed over from Georgia. The rebels are operating in two groups, one of 200 men, the other a hundred. 


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