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DATE=8/12/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / DAGESTAN (L) NUMBER=2-252728 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian military chiefs are making plans for a massive air campaign to crush a Muslim insurgency in the northern Caucasus. But as V-O-A's Peter Heinlein reports from Moscow, the rebels have shot down another Russian helicopter and appear to be holding their own. TEXT: President Boris Yeltsin was seen on Russian television Thursday, expressing confidence that government forces would put down the Muslim uprising in Dagestan, according to a well-orchestrated plan. /// YELTSIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "We think that gradually, without any rush, we will overcome this problem as we planned". His deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov, was more specific. Briefing reporters, General Zubov admitted it is difficult to win a clear victory over guerrilla fighters. But he said a large-scale assault is being prepared, involving Dagestani volunteers on the ground and Russian jets in the air. /// ZUBOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "In a couple days a massive operation will be launched." He gave few details, other than to say "the territory would be completely sanitized". // OPT // At a separate briefing, Air Force commander Anatoly Kornukov said there have already been about 200 air strikes against rebel positions. /// KORNUKOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "We have inflicted heavy losses." After the bombing missions of the past two days, he believes it may take only a couple more days to finish the job. // END OPT // But despite the optimism in Moscow, news from the front on day six of the Dagestan campaign was of another Russian helicopter downed by rebel fire. At least one crewman was killed, and three Interior Ministry generals were among the injured. . Agency reports indicate the insurgents, led by renegade Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, are putting up stiff resistance to the mostly irregular Dagestani fighters on the ground. /// REST OPT /// A defense analyst, Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Moscow Times newspaper, says Russia risks a repeat of the disastrous campaign in Chechnya in the mid-1990's because of poor coordination and distrust between the interior and defense ministries. In another development Thursday, the Chechen government sent a formal protest to the foreign ministry in Moscow complaining that Russian planes are carrying out air strikes inside Chechnya. Despite the presence of Chechen commanders and fighters on the front, the breakaway region's government has tried to maintain official neutrality in the fighting. But Chechen leaders charge the air strikes are provocations designed to drag the republic into a new war aimed at reversing the outcome of the last one, which ended with the humiliating withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, and de-facto independence for the region. (Signed) NEB/PFH/JWH/WTW 12-Aug-1999 11:30 AM EDT (12-Aug-1999 1530 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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