Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 183

As Russian forces continue to occupy northern Chechnya, the warring sides continue to try to get the upper hand in the propaganda war. An anonymous source from Russia’s Federal Security Service was quoted as saying today that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev may have bought U.S. shoulder-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Afghanistan’s Taliban movement. The source said that Basaev had sent emissaries to Afghanistan in August to negotiate weapons’ purchases and that a “large consignment” of Stingers at US$80,000 apiece was discussed, and while the deal was not consummated, the Taliban gave the Chechens four Stingers to try out. The FSB source claimed that eighteen months ago, the Russian security services had intercepted a weapons cache coming across the border with Azerbaijan that included eight Stingers (Russian agencies, October 5).

Meanwhile, Khattab, a radical Arab field commander and a comrade-in-arms of Basaev, denied that Saudi terrorist Osama Bin Laden has been assisting Chechen guerrillas. In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Khattab called bin Laden a “brother in Islam and a mujahid for Islam,” but said he did not finance the raids made earlier this year by Islamist guerrillas into Dagestan. Khattab also denied any involvement in the terrorist attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities last month which killed some 300 persons (Reuters, October 5).

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed today that Russian forces had already established control over one-third of Chechnya (Russian agencies, October 5).

The FSB officer’s claims concerning Stingers seemed to get bolstered with today’s confirmation by Russian military officials that two Russian warplanes were shot down over Chechnya in the past two days. Indeed, Chechen military officials were quoted as saying that one of the planes, a SU-25 attack jet, was brought down Sunday (October 4) by a U.S.-made Stinger about twenty-five kilometers southwest of Djohar, the Chechen capital. The second downed aircraft, an SU-24 bomber was shot down today while searching for the first plane. It is not clear what kind of weapon brought it down (CNN, October 5).