TITLE=DAGESTAN WRAP (L-ONLY)
INTRO: Russian troops say they have captured a
strategic mountain village held for two weeks
by Muslim insurgents in the southern region of
Dagestan. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports the
capture came hours after the rebels announced they had
withdrawn from the region.
TEXT: Russia's defense ministry says its forces late
Monday wrested control ofthe Dagestani village of
Tando from Islamic separatists who seized it early
this month. The capture of Tando came after days of
furious air and ground attacks against suspected rebel
targets in the region.
But the government report was called into question by
a rebel statement hours earlier announcing that all
separatist fighters had withdrawn from Tando Sunday
night. The statement, posted on the internet, said the
rebel commander, renegade Chechen warlord Shamil
Basayev, had ordered what was called a "redeployment"
of forces to other positions.
The insurgents' statement seemed to catch Russia's
military establishment by surprise. At first,
government spokesman described the withdrawal claim as
"lies and disinformation", citing field reports saying
the rebels were trapped and all exits leading out of
Tando were sealed.
Russia's main evening television news bulletins made
no mention of the withdrawal claim. But a short time
later, the defense ministry issued a statement saying
government troops had taken control of Tando. The
statement did not explain what had happened to the
There was no independent confirmation of any of the
reports from Dagestan. Western journalists have
been discouraged from going to the region because of
the threat of kidnapping.
But if the conflict in the mountains of Dagestan is
over, it could mark a triumph for Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin. On August 10th, days after he
was appointed, Mr. Putin predicted the insurgents
would be driven out of Dagestan in two weeks. That
deadline expires Tuesday. (signed)
23-Aug-1999 18:41 PM LOC (23-Aug-1999 2241 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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