Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 90

A battle took place on May in the city of Argun, located twenty kilometers from Djohar (Grozny), the Chechen capital. According to eyewitnesses, federal troops blocked exits from the city in the direction of Djohar, Gudermes and Shali, after which gunfire and explosions from grenade launchers and artillery were heard, and several helicopter gunships fired rockets into the city. Russian military sources said the fighting was part of special operation against Chechen rebel units discovered during a so-called “mopping up” operation. Indeed, Nikolai Britvin, deputy presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, claimed that the rebels were gathering forces in Argun in preparation for an offensive planned for May 15, when they would attempt to seize Argun, Gudermes and Djohar. The Russian military claimed that four rebels were killed during the operation and more than a dozen taken prisoner, including several Arab mercenaries. According to other reports, however, the rebels were able to withdraw from the city with minimal losses.

Movladi Udugov, a spokesman for the rebels’ military command, said that the battle in Argun began at 6 AM on May 7, when rebel forces attacked Russian troops who were entering the city for a “mopping up” operation. Udugov claimed that by 1 PM on May 7, the rebels had destroyed nine APCs and other Russian armor and six military automobiles, killing some forty Russian soldiers and wounding several dozen. According to Udugov, three rebels were killed in the fighting, including a mid-level field commander from a unit headed by Arbi Baraev, and more than ten were wounded. While the Russian military claimed that the operation was completed by early evening on May 7, local residents who managed to leave Argun during the fighting claimed that the battle had gone on into the evening. They also confirmed that Russian soldiers were killed (Gazeta.ru, May 8; Radio Liberty, May 7).