TITLE=RUSSIA- DAGESTAN (L-UPDATE)
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
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
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
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.
15-Aug-1999 18:03 PM LOC (15-Aug-1999 2203 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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