A new videotape showing Chechen and Ingush insurgents led by warlord Shamil Basaev in a Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) warehouse in Ingushetia has become topic number one in the Russian media (kavkazcenter.com, July 26).
This tape was made in June, when between 200 and 600 gunmen attacked several military and police facilities in Ingushetia. The video shows Basaev standing in a semi-lit room against a background of crates filled with weapons and ammunition; he is thanking God for such “gifts.” Basaev then uses a walkie-talkie to call for trucks to carry the weapons out of storage. According to Ingushetya.ru, the insurgents used stolen vehicles to carry the cache to the village of Galashki in Ingushetia’s highland, where they abandoned the cars and likely used horses to take the weapons to their secret bases high in the mountains.
The website also produced a second tape, allegedly made in Chechnya. On this tape Aslan Maskhadov, the political leader of the Chechen rebels and Basaev are shown together displaying the assortment of weapons seized in the raid on Ingushetia with the weapons being handed over to regional field commanders operating near the Chechen town of Gudermes. The insurgents claimed that the weapons they had acquired during the raid included heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers (AGS -17), and even an air defense artillery gun.
Russian officials responded one day after the second tape was released. On July 27, Sergei Fredynsky, an aide to the Russian Prosecutor General, admitted that Basaev was among those who took part in the Ingushetia raid. Fredynsky said that several individuals suspected of participating in the raid had testified that Shamil Basaev commanded the troops.
The tapes, appearing to confirm that Maskhadov and Basaev were behind the raid, dealt another humiliating blow to the Russian authorities. On July 28, President Vladimir Putin said that law enforcement agencies would draw lessons from the raid in Ingushetia. Specifically, the Federal Security Service, police, and Russian army have decided to set up a Unified Command Center to coordinate all anti-terrorist measures taken in the Caucasus. While the location of the new center had not been chosen yet, Rostov, Stavropol, and Vladikavkaz are candidates.
Russian law-enforcement leaders seem to take Maskhadov’s new threats to strike anywhere in the Caucasus or even in the Russian heartland very seriously. After the raid in Ingushetia, General Grigory Fomenko, the commandant of Grozny, ordered checkpoints around the city to be reinforced (kavkaz.strana.ru, July 6). On July 21, a unit from the 45th special paratrooper reconnaissance regiment held anti-terrorist exercises in Sokolniki, north of Moscow. The paratroopers were training to rush to a local hospital in response to a terrorist attack (gazeta.ru, July 21). On July 20, anti-terrorist military exercises were launched in Kabardino-Balkaria. Local OMON forces and other fast-deployment units were placed on alert for Dagestan’s Constitution Day, July 26. With no idea where the separatists will strike next, the authorities are trying to be ready everywhere, in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the events in Ingushetia.