The advent of the New Year has seen no let up in Chechnya’s guerrilla war. According to the Russian military, Chechen rebels fired on federal military positions seventeen times yesterday, while a large homemade bomb consisting of a 122 mm artillery shell and a landmine was found hanging from a tree this morning along a section of the Kavkaz highway in the southern suburbs of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital. The explosive device was connected to two telegraph wires–apparently for electronic or radio-controlled detonation–and may have been aimed at a convoy of military commanders and local administration heads from the Urus-Martan and Achkoi-Martan regions scheduled to pass along the highway on the way to a meeting in Gudermes. Bomb disposal experts blew up the device in a controlled explosion. Yesterday Federal bomb disposal units discovered and defused twenty bombs around the breakaway republic, and a Chechen civilian was killed and two Russian servicemen injured in separate incidents involving exploding mines. Also yesterday, federal forces also arrested twenty-nine people in Chechnya on suspicion of belonging to the rebels, and discovered a stockpile of weapons and three snipers’ positions in Djohar. The Russian military also claimed to have evidence that more than twenty mercenaries from Afghanistan had arrived in Chechnya to join the rebels (Russian agencies, January 3). On New Year’s Eve, one Russian solider was killed and two wounded when rebels fired on their armored personnel carrier on Prospekt Pobedy in the Chechen capital. The attack on the APC was the only major one carried out over the New Year’s holiday. The federal forces feared the rebels would try to carry out terrorist acts to mark the fifth anniversary of the Russian military’s failed attempt to seize Djohar on the last day of 1995 (Russian agencies, December 31-January 1).
Meanwhile, two British politicians have called on the European Commission to take measures in connection with human rights violations in Chechnya. Glynnis Kinnock, a European parliamentary deputy, told the BBC that Great Britain and the European Union should demand an independent inquiry into the behavior of Russian troops in Chechnya. Frank Judd, a member of the House of Lords, called on the British government to pressure Moscow to observe human rights in Chechnya. Last spring, Russia was robbed of its right to vote in the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Europe’s leading human rights watchdog, over concerns about human rights abuses in Chechnya (Russian agencies, January 3).
MOSCOW SEEKS OPEN-ENDED RETENTION OF MILITARY BASES IN GEORGIA.