For the first time over the last few months it was reported that militants showed initiative in clashes with federal forces. In the morning on Monday about a hundred of militants armed with small arms and grenade launchers penetrated into Gudermes, the second largest city in Chechnya, and began combat operations there. They attacked units of the Kaliningrad and Buryatia SOBR (special police rapid response detachments) and attempted to take checkpoints in the suburbs of the city.
Provisional department of the North Caucasus Regional Department for Combating Organized Crime reported that the major part of the terrorists who attacked Gudermes were local residents. They remained in the city until the attack and waited for a conventional signal. A mobile group of bandits suddenly attacked positions of policemen at dawn.
Numerous militants, well-armed and well-equipped with communication devices, acted in their support immediately. It is possible to judge ability of the militants by the fact that from the very beginning four units of policemen were attacked simultaneously. A bitter fighting continued in the area of the railway station, and there were casualties among OMON (riot police) and SOBR members. By midday the band was dispersed, but it attempted to break through into Gudermes in small groups. The battle continued for the whole day. As a result, according to Presidential Aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky seven policemen died and 15 militants were killed.
In the morning on Monday a terrorist act was committed against the head of the local administration Movsar Timerbaev in Argun, as a result of which his relative was killed. Timerbaev was not wounded. His house was damaged. However, the worst terrorist act occurred in Grozny. About midday a portable SAM downed a military Mi-8 helicopter near the Minutka Square. Two generals and eight colonels from the General Staff commission and the helicopter crew were killed. Militants used portable SAMs not for the first time. Last month in the Vedeno District they downed a Mi-24 strike helicopter, and a Mi-8 crashed on the Georgian border. However, there is still no accurate information saying in which country these SAMs were manufactured.
It is interesting that Commander of the group of federal forces in Chechnya General Valery Baranov initially denied the reports about bloody fighting in Gudermes via the staff of Presidential Aide Yastrzhembsky. Only on midday, when the helicopter was downed, state officials confirmed reports about the attack on the city.
Head of Chechen Administration Akhmad Kadyrov explained activities of the extremists in Gudermes saying that separatists are allegedly attempting to attract attention to themselves disseminating the rumors about seizing of Gudermes and street fighting going on there. Kadyrov says that this action is deliberately timed for the upcoming PACE session in Strasbourg during which the events in Chechnya will be discussed. Kadyrov is convinced that the militants have no forces for large-scale offensive. “They can only commit terrorist acts,” added Kadyrov.
Military sources in Khankala explain the recent fighting in Gudermes by the fact that quite recently the administration of the Chechen Republic was relocated to Grozny, and the majority of federal forces were concentrated in the capital of Chechnya. Very many troops are still concentrated in Chechnya, and there is no information that any units will be withdrawn in the near future. This is an indirect confirmation that unfortunately forces of the militants are not so small as the federal sources report. According to the Interior Ministry, there are approximately 2,000 militants operating in Chechnya including 300 mercenaries.
Meanwhile, bandit actions in Chechnya can be taken as a kind of support to the international terrorism. This is not a secret that Chechen militants are connected with terrorist Osama bin laden, who is now hiding in Afghanistan. It is his organizations that finance operations of terrorists in the North Caucasus.
Their combat capability remains high. It is impossible to rule out that their terrorist acts can be similar to those committed by Islamic terrorists in the US on September 11.
Meanwhile, so far Russia has been abstaining from active assistance to the US in the destruction of terrorists. Russian authorities painfully took statements of some CIS countries that they are ready to provide their terrorists for the delivery of blows by the United States on bin Laden in Afghanistan. Both Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin announced at the end of the last week that this was ruled out and not a single military official of Russia held such negotiations with the US.
Destruction of the terrorist bases in Afghanistan will contribute to closing of channels of financial and moral support of the Chechen militants, but Russia is very cautious about this issue. Why? Analysts tend to explain this fact saying that, first, massive use of force in Afghanistan may provoke flows of refugees to the North, namely to CIS countries. Second, Moscow is afraid that once in Central Asia NATO and US troops will remain for a long time, because there is no guarantee that bin Laden will be killed. Moreover that history shows that interventions in Afghanistan have never been successful, says Vladimir Yatsenko, geopolitics expert and Director of the Social Partnership Development Institute. Resolving of the conflict in Afghanistan is to some extend not beneficial for Russia because the project for construction of an alternative pipeline from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean, about which authorities of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan dream very much, will become realistic. In this case Russian oil and gas companies, which conduct transit of Uzbek and Turkmen hydrocarbons via Russia, will bear huge financial losses.
Thus, combat operations in Chechnya show that federal forces do not fully control the situation in the republic. The refusal of Russia to provide territories of its allies for delivery of blows on bin Laden can be beneficial for Chechen separatists who are going to keep destabilizing the situation in Russia by terrorist acts in the future.