Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 79

Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev warned yesterday that the federal forces in Chechnya were dealing with a well-armed and experienced foe which should not be underestimated. At the same time, Russian military command dispatched around 1,500 regular and internal troops to southern Chechnya in another attempt to establish a “passport regime”–that is, determine who is supposed to be living in the area and who is not. According to the military, up to 3,000 Chechen rebel fighters under the command of Shamil Basaev, Ruslan Gelaev and Khattab are located in southern Chechnya. Russian aviation continues to bomb Chechen positions and carry out intelligence operations in the region. Yesterday, Russian planes hit Chechen rebel bases near the towns of Tsentroi, Benoi and Roshin-chu (Radio Liberty, April 19).

The Kremlin appears to have become hopelessly muddled in assessing the military operation in Chechnya. On April 18, General Valery Manilov, deputy head of the armed forces’ general staff, declared that the largest rebel groups had been defeated decisively. Manilov, however, contradicted himself, admitting that the Russian forces in Chechnya were facing 2,000 armed rebels, and the military raised that number to 3,000 the following day. Either way, this is a significant force. The Kremlin, thus, seems unable to hide the failure of its “blitzkrieg” operation in Chechnya, and this explains the various contradictions in the official announcements about the military situation in the breakaway republic (NTV, April 18).

The European Union (EU), meanwhile, announced yesterday that three of its representatives would travel to the North Caucasus today. The EU delegation, which includes Gilbert DuBois, the head of the EU delegation to Russia, will travel to Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, where the envoys will meet with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov. They are scheduled to travel to Chechnya tomorrow, where they will visit the republic’s capital and the towns of Argun, Znamenskoe and Sernovodkoe. They will also meet with Nikolai Koshman, the Russian government’s representative in Chechnya. On April 22, the three envoys will travel to the republic of Ingushetia, where they will hold talks with Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev (Agence France-Presse, April 19).