The Russian military command in Chechnya yesterday denied what it called "mass media reports" of an interim body count of 267 civilians killed in Gudermes. However, that statement was made to the official Itar-Tass news agency the preceding day by none other than the Russian commander in chief in Chechnya, Lt. General Anatoly Shkirko. The Russian command yesterday upped its own casualty toll in this battle to 78 killed, over 150 wounded, and "several" missing in action, all from Internal Affairs Ministry troops. The Russian Army has yet to report its losses.
The Russian command reported finding only 40 bodies of Chechen fighters. It estimated Chechen military losses at 300 and surmised that the insurgents had taken most of their dead with them when they withdrew from the city. The latter assumption presupposes an organized and unhurried withdrawal of Chechen opposition forces. The Chechen command admitted to losing 107 fighters killed in Gudermes. (8)
The pipeline carrying Azerbaijani oil from Baku to Novorossiisk on the Black Sea and the railroad and highway linking Russia with the Caspian Sea all run through Gudermes. Chechen interdiction of these links would have amounted to a strategic defeat for Moscow in the entire region. Meanwhile in the Kabardino-Balkar republic a gas mainline was sabotaged by an explosion last week, disrupting also the gas supply of neighboring regions. The authorities said that they suspected Chechen insurgents of being responsible for the blast. (9)
On another front, Chechnya’s "head" of government Doku Zavgayev yesterday told a news conference in Moscow that the division of the former Chechen-Ingush ASSR into two republics "brought nothing good, and the Chechen and Ingush will soon make a decision on the issue of unification." The staff of Ingushetia’s president Ruslan Aushev promptly retorted that it had no plans to discuss the issue with anyone. (10) The Ingush area separated peacefully from the far larger Chechen area in late 1991-early 1992 in what looked like a deal between the newly elected Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev and Moscow. Zavgayev is a former communist leader of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR and has made no secret of his desire to reconstitute the former republic. His first step as "head" of Chechnya was to reactivate the Supreme Soviet of the Chechen-Ingush Republic.
Russian Energy Exports Down, Food Imports Up.