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DATE=8/15/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA- DAGESTAN (L-UPDATE) NUMBER=2-252819 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia's breakaway Chechnya region has declared a state of emergency beginning Monday, and placed all military units on full alert. VOA Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports the move comes as Russian forces are intensifying effort to dislodge muslim rebels entrenched along Chechnya border with Dagestan. TEXT: Russian officials say warplanes and helicopter gunships raided rebel targets Sunday in the sparsely populated northern Caucasus mountain region of Dagestan. Several of the strikes were said to have hit across the border in neighboring Chechnya. As the fighting raged, Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov declared a 30 day state of emergency, imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew, placing troops on full alert, and imposing a ban on all media except the state-owned television station. Russian Prime minister designate Vladimir Putin has made clear Chechnya would be fair game for Russian strikes. He told reporters last week "Chechnya is Russian territory, and we will strike the rebels wherever they are." Russia says muslim insurgents are using Chechnya, as a staging area crossing back and forth at will in the rugged mountains region. The Chechen government has already complained of air strikes inside Chechnya, which it says have caused civilian casualties. Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya in 1996 after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of local insurgents. Although Moscow maintains the region is still part of Russia, President Maskhadov's government enjoys virtual independence and has declared itself neutral in the lastest fighting. That neutrality has been compromised, however by the presence of renegade Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev as commander of the Dagestani rebel forces. Saturday, Russia warned Islamic countries not to assist the rebels in Dagestan. Acting Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was quoted as saying Moscow has proof the insurgents are receiving foreign help. Russian news agencies Sunday reported ground clashes in several regions of Dagestan under rebel control. The state-run ITAR-Tass news service said Muslim fighters infliltrating from Chechnya attacked two border villages,but were driven back. Official sources reported heavy rebel casualties, and said three defenders had been killed. Russia's interior ministry has estimated more than 200 Islamic fighters were killed in the first week of fighting out of a total force of about one-thousand. Earlier, a rebel spokesman said his side's casualties were far lower than what Russia claimed. Casualty figures, as well as details of the fighting, could not be independently confirmed. Western journalists are being discouraged from travelling to Dagestan, and most information about the war is being controlled by the Russian and Dagestani governments. (signed) Neb/pfh/PT 15-Aug-1999 18:03 PM LOC (15-Aug-1999 2203 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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