According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s press center, Russian troops have blocked a large group of Chechen fighters in the village of Goragorsky, located fifty-five kilometers from the Chechen capital of Djohar. They may have laid their hands on a very important “bird”. Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the Russian forces in northern Chechnya, said that among those surrounded in the village is Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. Shamanov added that Basaev would not be able to escape the encirclement and would be destroyed (NTV, RTR, ORT, October 11).
Shamil Basaev is unquestionably a key figure for the Kremlin. In June 1995 he led a group of fighters in the surprise attack on the town of Budennovsk in Stavropol krai. The fighters seized the local hospital, taking several hundred people hostage in the process, and demanded negotiations with Moscow. After federal forces tried unsuccessfully to storm the hospital, the Kremlin agreed to Basaev’s demands. The negotiations in Grozny (as the Chechen capital was then called) gave the Chechen fighters–who, by the summer of 1995, had been forced into the republic’s mountainous regions–the opportunity to regroup and regain the initiative in their battle with federal troops. After Budennovsk, the separatists’ victory was a foregone conclusion. In August 1999 Shamil Basaev again drew attention to himself, launching a military operation into Dagestan’s Botlikhsk region and provoking, ultimately, a new Russian-Chechen conflict.
If the federal forces do manage to destroy Basaev, the Kremlin can undoubtedly sip the sweet wine of a major victory. Basaev’s capture would be as significant as the assassination of Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudaev in 1996. It is premature, however, to predict that the Kremlin will manage to kill Basaev. In January 1996, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev managed to escape from the Dagestani town of Pervomaiskoe along with hostages he had seized, despite the fact that the town was ringed by three columns of Russian troops.
RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES TO FINALIZE KEY SECURITY GUIDELINES…