December was very bloody in Russia: 45 civilians perished in an electric train in Stavropol on December 5, a kamikaze blew herself up and killed six people (14 people were injured) 100 meters from the Kremlin on December 9. On December 15 a gang of Chechen guerrillas and foreign mercenaries broke through to Dagestan: nine Russian border guards perished in a fight.
The press service of the North-Caucasian territorial border guard department states that the border guard service of the Russian FSB took adequate measures aimed at preventing guerrillas from crossing the border between Georgia and Dagestan. The army aviation regularly flies along the Main Caucasian mountain ridge. Troops patrol passes in the mountains.
The press service denies reports that it is impossible to cross the Georgian border. The depth of snow reaches two to three meters, but this does not mean that the mountains are impassable. Some areas are covered with ice, and experienced guides, whom the guerrillas surely have, can show paths in the mountains. However, it is very likely that the guerrillas will try to cross the border in the Chechen-Georgian sector where the mountains are not as high and the snow is thin. It seems to be true because the gang retreats toward Chechnya.
It is evident that the guerrillas will not attack in the southern sector of the state border. They have moved to the north.
In the meantime, the Russian Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry are strengthening their groups in the south of Dagestan. A battalion of the Task Force created in Dagestan in May 2003 (the battalion is stationed in Krasnodar) is involved in the operation. Around 50% of servicemen of the battalion are contract servicemen who know how to fight in the mountains. Well-informed sources in the staff of the North-Caucasian military district state that the Task Force currently operates in cooperation with border guard units and police. Meanwhile, Russian troops did not manage to blockade the village of Galatli on December 16, and the guerrillas escaped to the mountains. Shamil Shaov, a representative of the press service of the Joint group of forces in the Northern Caucasus, stated that “it seems that the action is aimed at receiving additional funds. The guerrillas belong to Gaziev’s gang, which consists of 100 to 120 people. The group, which organized this action, is commanded by Dadayev.”
It is evident that not only Chechen guerrillas infiltrated into Dagestan. Magomed Magomedov, secretary of the emergencies commission of the Tsuntinsky district, stated that “several guerrillas spoke Arab”.
This incident raises many questions. Why did guerrillas infiltrate into Dagestan? What are their goals? Can Russian troops control the situation? Will such situations be repeated in the future?
Firstly, we must acknowledge that guerrillas can still destabilize the situation in the Northern Caucasus and even in Moscow. However, representatives of the security structures do not know the quantity of guerrillas in Chechnya. Judging from the regional operational staff’s reports, there were only 900 active guerrillas in the republic in November. Meanwhile, Colonel-General Gennady Troshev, former commander of the North-Caucasian military district, states that there are fewer guerrillas in the republic. According to him, there are three odious persons in Chechnya – Maskhadov, Basaev and Gelaev. Each leader is protected by 50 to 100 guerrillas. Meanwhile representatives of the security structures stated at a meeting in Khankala this week that there are around 100 gangs in Chechnya (1,500 to 1,700 guerrillas).
Secondly, Russian troops are used inefficiently in Chechnya. The gang’s break through to Dagestan is a graphic example. In the meantime, the Russian military reports that the military group in the Northern Caucasus does not receive new military hardware and weapons.
Thirdly, part of the population of Chechnya and Dagestan support Chechen guerrillas owing to religious reasons.
In other words, this problem must become the focus of attention of the Russian government. It is possible that Russia must use some other measures (political, religious, etc.) in order to reduce guerrillas’ influence on the population and prevent terrorist acts.