The Guardian December 8, 1999


Russians advance in Chechnya

Russian troops are sweeping through the Chechen republic while others 
are closing the circle around the capital, Grozny. Moscow has cut-off the 
entire mobile phone network in the north Caucasus  a move aimed at 
disrupting Chechen field command communications  and a sign that a major 
offensive is under way.

The would-be breakaway republic is backed by the US through Pakistan and 
Afghan Islamic fundamentalist forces.

It is the key to US and European imperialist plans to sever Russia's energy 
supplies  Chechnya straddles major oil pipelines  and to begin the 
process of "Balkanising" Russia, breaking it up into small segments easily 
dominated and exploited.

Federal Russian units are advancing south, mopping up guerrilla bases while 
the Russian airforce pounds remaining Chechen strongholds.

Many guerrillas are heading for the mountains, where they hope to regroup 
and counter-attack when winter sets in. Several thousand heavily-armed 
militiamen are holding out in Grozny.

Chechen leaders have belatedly called for talks, but the Russians are 
mindful of the way the 1996 agreement that ended the previous war in 
Chechnya was treated with contempt by the Chechens.

While Russia withdrew all its troops, giving the republic autonomy, 
Chechnya became a safe base for the Chechen criminal gangs that terrorise 
the whole of Russia.

Chechen guerrilla bands also tried to foment an Islamic fundamentalist 
uprising in the strategic neighbouring republic of Daghestan, but were 
repulsed by the local people and the Russian army.

Chechen "volunteers" fought in the KLA against the Yugoslav Government 
while the Chechen army includes Taliban militia from Afghanistan.

For their part, the Russian forces are trying to avoid becoming embroiled 
in a bloody frontal assault on Grozny. General Vitali Pavlov, commander of 
the Russian army air-force, says two helicopter gunships have already been 
shot down and scores more damaged in the campaign.

In Afghanistan, Russian losses of helicopter gunships were recently 
revealed to be the result of US special forces establishing a base in a 
mountain cave from which, with the aid of satellite global positioning 
data, they provided targeting directions for Stinger missiles fired by 
Afghan "freedom fighters".

It is not yet known how Chechen missiles are being directed to their 
targets.

Russian troops are trying to totally cut-off Grozny but they've made no 
attempt to probe its defences. Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev ruled out a 
full-frontal assault on Grozny on Russian television.

The number of Chechen refugees who have sought shelter in neighbouring 
Ingushetia is put at over 215,000.

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