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World - Europe

Russia acknowledges bombing raids in Chechnya

August 26, 1999
Web posted at: 5:23 a.m. EDT (0923 GMT)


In this story:

Civilians say their homes damaged

Some rebels still fighting in Dagestan

Trouble in Chechnya nothing new for Russia

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



MOSCOW -- Russia's Defense Ministry on Thursday confirmed its forces had dropped bombs into breakaway Chechnya late on Wednesday after claiming victory over Islamic rebels backed by Chechen warlords in neighboring Dagestan.

Russian jets bombed the militants in two Chechen villages, destroying three vehicles carrying rebels who had left Dagestan, according to the Defense Ministry's press center. The confirmation followed claims by Chechen officials Wednesday night that Russian jets made 16 bombing runs against sites in Chechnya.

"Federal forces retain the right to bomb concentrations of guerrillas," said a ministry press spokesman based in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala.

"The federal forces carried out an air strike near a lake on Chechen territory near Vedeno but the residents of the village were not hit," he said.

Civilians say their homes damaged

Local residents streamed out of the Vedeno gorge on Wednesday evening after Russian planes hit camps belonging to the Islamic guerrillas.

One woman said seven planes had hit the camps twice. The residents said they did not know of any civilian casualties but that windows and roofs had been damaged by the blasts.

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev told Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio on Thursday the Russian planes had hit civilians but had failed to hit the guerrillas' bases.

Some rebels still fighting in Dagestan

Russian troops on Wednesday claimed victory over the guerrillas in Dagestan , who came from Chechnya and for two weeks held several villages. However, small groups of militants remain in Dagestan and are still attacking local security forces.

About 20 rebels clashed with police for about two hours overnight in the village of Andi. Also, rebel snipers are still active in many villages, said Russian troops wounded in fighting in the village of Tando.

The Defense Ministry spokesman said federal forces were now clearing mines from the territory previously occupied by the rebels, who sought to establish Islamic rule in Dagestan. "They even planted bombs in the local churches," he said. A Russian tank struck a mine outside Tando on Thursday; it's not known if anyone was injured.

The remaining rebels in Dagestan are surrounded, cut off from supply or retreat routes and will be wiped out by Russian helicopters, said Yevgeny Ryabstev, a spokesman for Russia's Interior Ministry troops.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday claimed victory in what he called the first stage" of the fight against the rebels

"The first stage of the (Dagestani) operation is completed. It was carried out in the shortest possible time with minimum losses, but there have been casualties," Putin told a weekly session of the Russian cabinet. He gave no figures.

He also said the government "will continue, the same as before, to settle all acute problems only by political methods ... (but) has enough resources for repulsing any terrorists or gangsters, no matter where they hide."

Trouble in Chechnya nothing new for Russia

Moscow withdrew its forces from Chechnya in 1996 after suffering a humiliating defeat in a war against Chechen separatists.

Chechnya claims it is independent, but Moscow says it is still part of Russia even though the federal government has no control there.

Chechen leaders said they were not involved in the rebel raid on Dagestan.

But two leading Chechen field commanders, Shamil Basayev and Hattab (one name), were among the military leaders of the insurgency. They are at odds with the Chechen president, Aslan Maskhadov, and he effectively has no influence over them.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Rebels say they're out of Dagestan; Russia says war contiues
August 23, 1999
Russian Muslim leader condemns Dagestan uprising
August 21, 1999
Moscow again plans wider war in Dagestan
August 19, 1999
No end in sight to Dagestan fighting despite Russian promises
August 17, 1999
New Russian prime minister gets Cabinet deadline, faces Dagestan issue
August 17, 1999
Putin tells Duma: Law and order top priority
August 16, 1999
Russia targets rebels in Dagestan; Chechnya in state of emergency
August 15, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Russia Today
ITAR-TASS Home Page
NUPI Center for Russian Studies
CaspianNet: Dagestan Republic
Chechen Islamic rebels (Russian)
Chechen Republic Online
NUPI Center for Russian Studies
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