Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 167

There have been contradictory reports over the last few days concerning capture of high-level Russian military officers by Chechen rebels. Agence France Press quoted an official representative of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as saying that rebel fighters took a Russian general and two colonels prisoner in the center of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital, on September 9. The office of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin’s point man on Chechnya, denied the claim, saying that it had been checked by both the army and Interior Ministry and was not confirmed (AFP, Russian agencies, September 9). It is possible, however, that the Chechen side was telling the truth. While, the rebel website run by former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov, often disseminates blatant disinformation, statements made by Maskhadov’s press service, which are often quoted in the Western press, are generally more accurate. There have been several instances in which the Kremlin denied claims by Maskhadov’s press service which turned out to be true.

Even if the report that the high-ranking Russian officers were captured turns out to be false, it is clear that fighting in Chechnya has not died down. Guerrilla warfare is taking place day and night throughout the republic. Over the weekend, Russian internal troops and Interior Ministry units were fired on six times. In the capital’s Minutka Square, unidentified gunmen fired on police checkpoints from the ruins of high-rise buildings. A sniper killed a member of an OMON special police unit from the republic of Tuva who was on patrol in the capital’s Oktyabr region. Another two policemen were wounded by gunfire and taken to the hospital on the Russian military base in Khankala, just outside the capital. Minutka Square is still considered a strategically important part of the capital and is thus heavily guarded. However, according to local residents, gunfire is heard coming from the square virtually every night, which they assume to be gun battles between the rebels and the federal forces. Attacks on Russian installation have been taking place in three northern regions of Chechnya along the Terek River, which is deep inside territory assumed to be under federal control. In the early hours of September 9, the temporary police headquarters in the town of Shelkovskaya was fired on. Two policemen were wounded in the attack. On September 7, rebels attacked a column of Russian internal troops. According to official reports, two Russian servicemen were killed and seven wounded. The Russian military reported that three of the attackers were killed (Radio Liberty, September 8-9). Meanwhile, five people in Stavropol were wounded in an explosion caused by a bomb that had been placed at a bus stop on Ultisa Karl Marx, not far from the city’s Nizhny Market. Investigators say that Chechen guerrillas may have planted the bomb.

At the same time, the Russian side scored some successes over the weekend. On September 8, the authorities in Moscow captured Kharon Yunusov, chief of staff of Arbi Baraev, one of the leading rebel field commanders. Baraev is known for the fact that before the start of the current war in Chechnya, he was involved in taking hostages and was known as the republic’s biggest “specialist” in this field (Russian agencies, September 8-9).