Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 217

It would appear that the Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was a smashing success for the Kremlin, and Moscow now plans to solve the Chechen problem without any consideration of civilian victims. Over the weekend, the Russian forces continued their massive attack on towns and villages in western Chechnya. If the Russian military is to be believed, it has taken control over practically the entire western part of the republic’s lowlands. This, in fact, is apparently what has happened, and the Chechen side has indirectly confirmed it. According to the “Kavkaz.org” Internet site, which is a mouthpiece for Chechen propaganda, resistance fighters have withdrawn from population centers to “avoid casualties among the civilians.” While the federal forces are carrying out operations in the western part of the republic, they are also continuing operations around the republic’s capital, Djohar. According to the Russian military, the capital has already been blockaded, with troops now located only three to five kilometers away from the city. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed over the weekend that “the intensity of the military actions will not be reduced” (Russian agencies, www.kavkaz.org, November 21).

It would appear that, prior to the onset of the winter freeze, the Kremlin plans to have already established control over the entire Chechen lowlands and driven the Chechen fighters into the mountains. The fighters will have great difficulties in the mountains in terms of food supplies, and this will greatly lower their fighting capabilities. In carrying out this strategy, the Kremlin will come close to duplicating that of General Yermolov during the Caucasus war of the 19th century. Yermolov planned to force the Caucasus resistance fighters into the mountains, consigning them to starvation.

For its part, Djohar wants to ruin the plans of the Kremlin by opening a “second front” to distract the federal forces. On November 21, “Islamic Television of Dagestan,” which is broadcast from Chechen territory controlled by the resistance forces, featured a statement from the prime minister of the “Islamic government of Dagestan” in exile, Sirazhuddin Ramazanov. He declared that the struggle to de-colonize Dagestan will continue (www. Kavkaz.org, November 21). Ramazanov’s government-in-exile was created under the patronage of Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev during his raid into Dagestan in August.