Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 65

A battle is continuing for the village of Dzhani-Vedeno, located in southern Chechnya’s Vedeno region. On March 29, two armored columns of the Perm OMON special police units were ambushed on the outskirts of the village. Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President-elect Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Chechnya, said yesterday that two soldiers in the armored column were killed, sixteen were found alive and thirty-three had disappeared. The Chechen rebel military command claimed that sixty Russian servicemen were killed in the raid, and nine OMON troops taken prisoner. Russian paratroopers reportedly arrived yesterday morning to assist the forces trapped in the village, after which a battle broke out with rebel forces.

Meanwhile, Chechen rebel units last night fired on Russian positions on the outskirts of the Chechen capital. Yet another battle is raging around the village of Tsentora in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt, where up to 500 rebel troops are concentrated. The Russian military admits that the rebels have managed to coordinate the actions of their forces and are likely to carry out a large-scale guerrilla action in the near future. Russian military officials claim to have information that the rebels are planning to attack the Novolaksk region in neighboring Dagestan. Last summer, forces led by Chechen rebel field commander Shamil Basaev tried to seize that region of Dagestan, and this raid, along with the terrorist bombings in Russian cities, became the Kremlin’s pretexts for sending troops into Chechnya.

The current situation in the Novolaksk region is very tense: Small groups of rebels shoot at Russian checkpoints there almost every night. And while the Kremlin paid local inhabitants compensation for the destruction wrought by last August’s operation to expel the Chechen-based rebels from Dagestan, they are not rushing to rebuild their homes out of fear that another war is coming. According to Russian military officials, Chechen rebel fighters plan to take as many hostages as possible in Dagestan and then make various political demands–for instance, that negotiations be started to end the Chechen conflict (Russian agencies, Radio Liberty, April 30).