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DATE=8/11/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / DAGESTAN (L) NUMBER=2-252689 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 volunteers. 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 UNDER /// 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 forces trapped. /// 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) NEB/PFH/JWH/RAE 11-Aug-1999 12:27 PM EDT (11-Aug-1999 1627 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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