Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 128

Yesterday, for the fourth day running, heavy fighting continued in the region around the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt between Russian units and Chechen fighters under rebel field commander Khattab. Both sides have sustained losses. Russian artillery and aviation continue to hit wooded areas between the towns of Avtury, Serzhen-Yurt and Niki-Khita, where, according to Russian intelligence, rebel fighters are concentrated. According to one report, control has been tightened over the roads leading into these towns and the highway connecting the towns of Shali and Vedeno. Only local residents with local “propiskas” (resident permits) are being allowed through checkpoints (Russian agencies, June 30).

Before Russian forces took control of Serzhen-Yurt earlier this year, a terrorist training camp set up by Khattab was located in the area. The camp trained terrorists to carry out attacks in various regions of the North Caucasus and adjacent regions outside Russia (for example, graduates of Khattab’s camp carried out an attack on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze). Several months ago, the Kremlin claimed that the rebel units in the Serzhen-Yurt area had been destroyed, but that claim now appears to have been premature. It would appear that the failures of the Russia army in Chechnya have forced Russian generals and high-level officials to talk about the military campaign there in more cautious terms than they have done. Thus, despite their recent statements that large-scale military operations in Chechnya had ended, Russian military officials are now saying that it is too early to make such claims, given that “large band formations each numbering more than ten people” remain intact (NTV, June 30).

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on the Russian parliament to use its influence to improve the human rights situation in Chechnya, which in turn would re-establish Russia’s membership in PACE. The assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating that Moscow’s attempts in this direction have thus far not yielded convincing results. The PACE members urged the Council of Europe’s committee of ministers to ensure that Russia fulfills the obligations it took upon itself as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly. The document criticized the position of the council’s committee of ministers, which earlier this year recommended that Russia’s membership in PACE be restored (Radio Liberty, June 30).