On July 30, Umar Pashaev, a close associate of and financial aide to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, has been killed. Pashaev was shot during a special operation carried out by Russia’s Interior Ministry forces at the village of Osktyabrskoe in Chechnya’s Kurshaloevskoe region. Pashaev resisted arrest, and shot and wounded one of the arresting officers. Federal forces reportedly also killed Saltakhanov, a commander of a so-called suicide battalion. In the meantime, extra security measures were imposed in Chechnya over the weekend. The republic’s main road–the Kavkaz highway–was closed, and the passport-checking regime throughout Chechnya tightened. According to the Russian military, these actions were connected with approach of August 6, the anniversary of day in 1996 when Chechen rebel forces seized the capital of Djohar [Grozny], effectively marking Russia’s defeat in the 1994-1996 Chechen military campaign. Russian military officials fear that the rebels will attempt to seize the Chechen capital again to mark the anniversary. Meanwhile, the Russian military’s high command also fears that the rebels are planning to step up their military activities along the Dagestani-Chechen border. The Russian military claim that up to 1,000 Chechen rebel fighters are concentrated along that border, and has taken measures in Dagestan to prevent a possible armed incursion from Chechnya (Russian agencies, July 31).
Despite the alarming reports coming out of Chechnya, Russia’s general continue to issue triumphal statements about the course of the military campaign. Colonel-General Georgy Shpak, commander of airborne forces, announced that “two months ago, according to intelligence information, commandos seriously wounded Aslan Maskhadov, and two days ago [we received] similar information about the wounding of [rebel field commander] Khattab” (Russian agencies, July 31). However there are reasons to doubt these reports. Russian military officials have repeatedly announced the wounding and even killing of well-known Chechen field commanders, but the information has generally turned out to be inaccurate.
Meanwhile the office of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin’s point man on Chechnya, reported that a battle took place near the Chechen village of Shalazhi between fighters loyal to two field commanders, Arbi Baraev and Ruslan Gelaev. Four people were reportedly killed in the fighting. An official in Yastrzhembsky’s office said that “it is hardly the first armed confrontation between various bands, which yet again confirms the [reports that] deep contradictions and disputes… prevail in the relations among the leaders of the bandits.” Yastrzhembsky’s office earlier reported that unknown persons had made an unsuccessful attempt on Baraev’s life in Ingushetia on July 30. However Baraev himself denied this report (Russian agencies, July 30-31; Kavkaz.org, July 31).
The dispute between Baraev and Gelaev erupted this past March, when Baraev’s units failed to come to the assistance of Gelaev’s forces during the battle with federal troops in and around the town of Komsomolskoe. According to some reports, Baraev and his men bribed their way out of Komsomolskoe while leaving Gelaev and his people to their fate.
UKRAINIAN-TURKMEN GAS DEAL SHATTERS, RUSSIAN VISE TIGHTENS.