As a rule, a new training year in the troops starts with visits of Defense Ministry commanders to military units. Thus, on December 1, Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeev checked the first exercises of the winter training period in the 27th mechanized infantry division of the Moscow Military District. Speaking about peculiarities of tactical exercises scheduled for 2000, the minister stressed that they would be conducted taking into account the experience accumulated during conduction of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.

Describing the current situation in Chechnya, Sergeev said that “condition of bandits is being aggravated,” and Argun is “sealed off,” and “within two or three days it will be taken under control of the federal forces.” According to Sergeev, the operation in Chechnya will be accomplished “within the next one, two, or three months.” “The main criterion remains the same: securing minimum casualties of personnel and losses of weapons and combat equipment,” stressed the minister. Answering the request of journalists to comment on the statement of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the federal forces might turn to a tougher tactics of combat operations in Chechnya, Sergeev said that “if the situation requires this, it will probably happen.” “What the troops have been doing so far is sufficient,” added the minister.

Sergeev denied the reports that federal forces attack populated areas. “This is wrong,” announced the minister, “strikes are delivered at targets which have been checked thrice, where there are guerrillas, depots, strong points, and so on. Only in this case a decision is made to deliver a blow.”

Answering the question whether the Chechen youth would be drafted to the Russian Armed Forces, Sergeev said, “Chechnya is a subject of the Russian Federation, and we will do this during the operation.” He stressed that the detachments commanded by former Mayor of Grozny Bislan Gantamirov “cannot be called military units yet, so far this is a volunteer detachment.” “I think,” said Sergeev, “that we will try to do our best to make it regular and organized.”

Sergeev hopes that in the new training year the skill of troops will be higher. According to him, all necessary conditions have been created for this. Spending on national defense has been increased, money allowances arrears are being repaid, units of permanent readiness are functioning reliably. He said the following, “Our goal is, like in 1999, increasing of combat readiness of the units of permanent readiness.” According to Sergeev, the experience of reforms which the Armed Forces received since 1997 and in 1999 showed correctness of the chosen course aimed at organization of units of permanent readiness, their manning almost according to the war time schedule, and organization of combat training of the troops. “We will supplement this experience in 2000,” added Sergeev.

General of the Army Vladimir Toporov, the Deputy Defense Minister in charge of the combat training, shares this approach. He noted that success of combat operations in Chechnya directly depends on quality of the combat training. In his interview titled “Successful operations of the troops in Chechnya are based on busy combat training” published by Krasnaya Zvezda Toporov pointed out that the busy combat training allowed formation of the group of forces and sealing off of the terrorist bandit formations in the central part of Chechnya, conduction of combat operations for destruction of bandits, and narrowing of the ring surrounding Grozny in the shortest possible time.

Stressing peculiarities of these combat operations Toporov noted that regiments and divisions had been preparing for accomplishment of combat missions in their specific operational areas, in their military-geographical conditions, which differed substantially from conditions of the North Caucasus. By now combat training has been organized taking into account peculiarities of Chechnya, and tactics of combat operations against bandit formations. Special attention is focused on cooperation between the units and formations of different Armed Forces branches, and between special forces. According to Toporov, all this contributes to successful fulfillment of the tasks set to the federal forces with the minimum casualties.

Meanwhile the losses of troops in Chechnya and Dagestan cannot be called minimum. For the last time officials of the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry announced the relevant statistics almost a month ago. Thus, on November 2 Colonel General Valery Fedotov, the Senior Deputy Interior Minister, announced that since August 2 175 servicemen of the Interior Ministry, including 57 militiamen and 118 servicemen of the Interior Forces, died in the battles.

On November 12 Colonel General Valery Manilov, the Senior Deputy Chief of the General Staff, reported that casualties of the Armed Forces in the North Caucasus taking into account combat operations in Dagestan amounted to 279 killed and 756 wounded. According to Manilov, since the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya the Defense Ministry had 164 servicemen killed and 438 wounded. According to the Defense Ministry, the losses of Chechen guerrillas exceeded 1,500 people.

During the Chechen campaign of 1994-96 the Armed Forces had 2,941 servicemen killed and 17,892 wounded. The Interior Forces had 986 servicemen killed, and the Border Guards had 35 servicemen killed. Thus over three months of combat operations in 1999 the federal forces lost almost 10% of their casualties during the last campaign, this is a high level of casualties, because according to the growth of the number of killed and wounded it almost corresponds to the period of combat operations in 1994-96. We also need to bear in mind that not the whole territory of Chechnya is liberated yet, and the main combat operations are still ahead, because Grozny is not surrounded, and the guerrillas are still fighting bitterly. Recently Chechen guerrillas especially activated their resistance to the federal forces, and in some areas tried to regain the initiative. The facts of losses of whole servicemen’s units have been reported. Thus, the Airborne Forces and scouts had lost several dozen servicemen. Servicemen and combat vehicles explode on mines every day. The guerrillas are still trying to attack.

Along with this, the headquarters of the group of federal forces reported that all counter-attacks of the guerrillas, including in the area of Goragorsky, a large settlement in Eastern Chechnya, were parried, and the federal forces are standing on the same positions. During the clashes the extremists had big casualties, stressed the military.

We need to add that Goragorsky is located far deep behind the front line of the federal forces. This is one of the first populated spots which was liberated after the offensive of the federal forces on the left bank of Terek River. According to the Russian military, the guerrillas activated combat operations on the borders of the republic, in the Vladikavkaz (Western Chechnya), and Botlikh areas (South-Eastern Chechnya), and this shows that the guerrillas are still strong enough.

As always, a non-contact method of fighting is used. Artillery and aviation attacks detachments of extremists in Nozhay-Yurt and Vedeno Districts, as well as near Alkhazurovo, Alkhan-Yurt, Orekhovo, and Zhalazhi.

Meanwhile, while fighting on the front line the guerrillas also use guerilla tactics. They organize ambushes on possible routes of federal forces movement, plant mines on the roads. The guerrillas penetrate behind the front line of the federal forces for subversion purposes. In such circumstances it is very difficult for regular troops to operate. Of course, they loose personnel and armament. However somehow nothing is reported about this.

A general situation as a result of which the federal forces are carrying out combat operations is reported. The headquarters of the group of federal forces reported that to the south of Grozny the most bitter fighting goes on in the Urus-Martan District and in Urus-Martan itself where large forces of guerrillas are concentrated. “Here active counter-measures are taken against the federal aviation. Fire is opened at airplanes and helicopters from all kinds of weapons, including the air defense systems and large caliber machine guns. Launches of mobile air defense missile systems of unidentified type have also been registered,” report the military.

According to the military, it is through Urus-Martan that passes the road which connects the southern mountainous districts of Chechnya with Georgia, This road is strategically important for the guerrillas, that is why they are bitterly resisting to prevent cutting of this road by the federal forces.

Thus, it is not quite correct to speak about successful combat operations in Chechnya like the Defense Ministry does. Bitter fighting is still going on, involving major losses of personnel. If Grozny is stormed, these casualties might be multiplied.