The Chechen rebels have stepped up their activity in the final month of summer, not only because August provides ideal topographic conditions for guerrilla warfare, but also because they are seeking revenge for a series of punitive federal raids in July in western Chechen villages. Those raids were accompanied by accusations of widespread human rights abuses by Russian troops (see the Monitor, July 9, 12, 19, 23, 30). But while the guerrilla war in Chechnya has been in a highly active phase for more than two weeks now, rather scanty reporting about the increase in rebel activity has appeared in the Russian media only over the last several days.
Over the weekend of August 25-26, the rebels reportedly managed to seize control of the town of Vedeno. According to the rebel website Kavkaz.org, rebel troops destroyed the Russian military headquarters in Vedeno and seized a significant number of weapons (Kavkaz.org, August 27). It is hard to say who is in control of the town at the moment, given that serious fighting there continues. At the same time, Russian media, citing military sources, have been reporting an upsurge in the number of attacks on federal forces in Chechnya’s northern districts, which were previously regarded as having been pacified. For example, on August 28 a group of Russian policemen on a tour of duty in northern Chechnya were fired on in the village of Poraboch. Two of the policemen were killed and several others wounded (Interfax, August 28). Meanwhile, the rebels have been stepping up measures apparently aimed at preventing federal forces from moving freely around the republic. Over the last several days, Russian bomb disposal experts discovered some forty bombs and mines on roads along which troop columns were set to pass. The Russian military has been responding to the the rebels’ stepped up activities with artillery bombardment and a sharp increase in the number of bombing raids on suspected rebel positions by military aviation. The use of artillery and airpower, however, will inevitably lead to increased death and destruction among civilians.
A high-ranking officer in the headquarters of the federal forces in Chechnya was quoted today as predicting that September would be the most difficult month in Chechen military operation so far this year. While the preparedness of the rebels’ bomb specialists had increased sharply, he said, the quality of Russian intelligence on rebel activities had dropped sharply because of the federal forces’ inability to protect agents and pay them adequately (Izvestia.ru, August 30).
WEIRD SCENARIO FOR “COMBAT COMMONWEALTH” EXERCISE.