On September 17–a day dubbed “Black Monday” by the Russian media–an estimated 300 Chechen separatist fighters seized “practically the entire city [of Gudermes]” in one hour of fighting (Kommersant, September 19). According to Reuters, the fall of Chechnya’s second city “coupled with a string of smaller attacks across Chechnya, was the biggest setback in months for Moscow, which is trying to portray life in the rebel republic as returning to normal” (Reuters, September 18). In the capital of Djohar (Grozny), a separatist fighter managed, with a surface-to-air missile, to shoot down a large military helicopter carrying two Russian generals and eight colonels; all were killed in the fiery crash.
One of the two generals killed, Lieutenant General Anatoly Pozdyakov, deputy head of the Chief Administration for Operations of the Russian General Staff, had been in charge of planning all military operations conducted within Chechnya. He and Major General Pavel Varfolomeev had come to the Chechen capital to discuss and to agree draft documents concerning a mechanism of cooperation linking the Combined Group of Forces and the pro-Moscow Chechen administration. General Pozdnyakov had been charged with writing a report for President Putin concerning these arrangements (Kommersant and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 19; Krasnaya Zvezda, September 21). Following the fierce separatist attacks, all Chechen cities were closed to vehicles, while mopping up operations commenced in the villages. Some 400 suspects were taken into custody. There was also a report that women personnel of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration were to be evacuated to Mozdok in North Ossetia (Kommersant, Interfax, Lenta.ru, September 19).