Chechen rebel commanders reportedly met in a remote mountainous part of the breakaway republic over the weekend to reaffirm their allegiance to President Aslan Maskhadov. A rebel spokesman told AFP yesterday that the field commanders had held a “war council” in Nozhai-Yurt region, during which they also replaced commanders who had recently died in the ongoing fighting (AFP, July 22). It was not clear whether the council included such long-time Maskhadov foes as Shamil Basaev or Khattab.
Last week, Maskhadov sent an open letter to the leaders of the G-7 leading industrialized nations who were preparing to meet in Genoa, Italy, calling on them to impose sanctions on Russia if it refuses to call an immediate ceasefire in Chechnya, allow international monitoring of that ceasefire and begin negotiations with the rebels. Maskhadov, who also demanded that international media and humanitarian organizations be given free access to Chechnya, accused the Western leaders of being “willing to overlook the annihilation of [the Chechen] people” for the sake of “an uncertain relationship with a fragile and volatile new Russia,” adding that the price of such “pragmatism of international diplomacy” was “terror, butchery and madness” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Radio Liberty, July 19).
Meanwhile, Russian military sources claimed today that a rebel commander, Magomed Tsagaroev, was killed in Djohar [Grozny] when he and several other rebels attacked the home of two policemen. Tsagaroev was reportedly shot to death when relatives of the policemen returned fire. Described as a close associate of Arbi Baraev, the notorious field commander killed in a Russian special operation earlier this year (see the Monitor, June 27), Tsagaroev had reportedly been involved in various terrorist acts, including the murder of an imam in the town of Urus-Martan. Additionally, the Interior Ministry reported today that it had captured four rebels along with a host of weapons in the village of Shalazhi in the Urus-Martan district (Gazeta.ru, July 23). On July 20, the Russian military reported that one of its servicemen had been killed in Chechnya when rebels fired on the Mi-8 helicopter in which he was traveling. The rebels, for their part, claimed that they downed an Mi-8 that day, killing six, and that they had brought down a total of four helicopters last week. On July 19, an Mi-8 crashed in Chechnya’s mountains, killing nine servicemen and injuring five. The Russian military is still investigating the circumstances of that crash (Moscow Times, July 23).
PERSPECTIVE ON LITHUANIA’S NEW PRIME MINISTER.