Just as the separatist rebels warned during the winter, the return of a protective cover of foliage this spring has brought with it an upsurge in the rebels’ military activities. In recent weeks an increasing proportion of rebel attacks has involved direct exchanges of small-arms fire, as distinct from mines planted in advance. Sometimes these tactics are combined.
A rebel ambush in Ingushetia on May 30, just a mile outside Chechnya, led to the deaths of two Russian soldiers and the wounding of five others. Three more pro-Moscow servicemen were wounded when a mine exploded under a relief column, the Ingush Interior Ministry told the Associated Press. Rebel gunfire killed two more Russian soldiers in Chechnya’s southern highlands, and a mine killed another when hit by his armored personnel carrier.
Aslan Maskhadov, the elected president of the underground separatist government, said in a written statement obtained by the Reuters news agency that his forces “have a lot prepared” for the summer and fall campaign season. “I do not think that the enemy will be able to remain,” he predicted, “because the guerrillas are very determined.”