TITLE=RUSSIA / DAGESTAN (L)
INTRO: A council of Muslim clerics in Russia's
southern republic of Dagestan has proclaimed a
renegade Chechen warlord as their commander in what
they are calling a holy war against Moscow's rule.
Correspondent Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports
casualties are mounting as Russia steps up its use of
air power in a bid to quickly crush the insurgency.
TEXT: Day-five of the battle for Dagestan saw
hundreds of locals in the regional capital,
Makhachkala, taking up arms and heading for the
mountains to drive out insurgents who have captured
several villages along the border with neighboring
Chechnya. Russian television showed pictures of the
One could be heard saying -- only we Dagestanis can
defend ourselves against the Chechens.
There is no independent information about fighting in
the remote and sparsely populated region, but both
sides claimed (Wednesday) to have scored successes.
Russia's Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said
government forces had encircled the insurgents and
would soon wipe them out.
/// RUSHAILO ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE
He says -- We cleared the Tsumadin area of guerrillas,
and in the Botlikh region, operations are in progress
to eliminate the terrorist groups.
The rebels told a different story. Chechen warlord
Shamil Basayev was shown on Russian television saying
the insurgents have firm control of the strip of land
where the fighting is centered, and have the Russian
/// BASAYEV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER ///
He says -- we have surrounded the punitive group sent
by Russia. One battalion managed to fight its way
through and escape, but two others are still trapped.
A council of Dagestani Muslim leaders, or Shura,
announced (Wednesday) they had asked Mr. Basayev to
lead their rebellion. Mr. Basayev gained fame as one
of the masterminds of the Chechen uprising in the mid-
1990's that ended in defeat for Russia and de-facto
independence for Chechnya.
But the warlord later broke with the Chechen
leadership and is considered a renegade.
Despite the lack of reliable information about this
latest fighting, it appears the casualty toll is
continuing to mount. A Russian government spokesman
said at least 10-federal troops have been killed. He
had no firm figures on rebel losses, saying only that
they were much higher.
Mindful of their humiliating defeat in the mountains
of Chechnya, Russian strategists are said to be
considering the use of air power similar to the
strategy used by NATO in Yugoslavia. Air Force
commander Anatoly Kornukov said aviation will play a
decisive role in driving the Chechens out of Dagestan.
Analysts here say the uprising in Dagestan after the
embarrassment in Chechnya poses a challenge to
Moscow's grip on the Caucasus, one that requires a
swift answer. But what that will be remains a
difficult question for Kremlin policymakers.
As one European diplomat specializing in the Caucasus
region remarked -- they are groping for a strategy,
but so far they have been unable to come up with the
magic solution. (Signed)
11-Aug-1999 12:27 PM EDT (11-Aug-1999 1627 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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