Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 37

In an interview with the newspaper Izvestia, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky maintained that there definitely were Islamic “mercenaries” who had been trained in Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan who were currently fighting in Chechnya. At present, he noted, the number of such mercenaries is “not more than 200 persons.” Yastrzhembsky added that the diminishing numbers of these foreign fighters is connected both with losses incurred in battle and with disputes among the leaders of the Chechen separatists. “According to our sources,” he said, “at the command of Khattab, not so long ago a group of rebels numbering thirty men, headed by field commander Seif Al-Islam, was withdrawn [from Chechnya]” (Izvestia, October 10). The elected representative of Chechnya to the Russian State Duma, Aslambek Aslakhanov, also recently maintained that, “There are no more than 200 foreign mercenaries in Chechnya” (Wall Street Journal, October 5).

On October 12, the website reported that “the leadership of Russia has rejected the request of the president of Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba, for the introduction of Russian troops onto the territory of the republic.” This information was said to have been provided by a source in the Russian special services. Abkhazia had, on the basis of a perceived major threat to Abkhazian territory from “Georgian and Chechen units,” requested that Russia provide direct military intervention.