The Russian military later said 28 rebels were killed, the Interfax news agency reported.
Russian helicopters were flown in to reinforce ground troops fighting street battles, and heavy artillery shelled the town. More Russian backup forces were sent into Argun on Monday, and at least one military convoy was attacked as it approached the town. The rebels fled on Tuesday, the official said. No information was available on civilian casualties.
The Russian government has moved hundreds of Chechen refugees from camps in the neighboring Russian region of Ingushetia to newly restored hostels in Argun, but many have refused to move, fearing for their safety. Some who have made the move complain that they have yet to receive promised financial support.
``So yesterday they got their compensation,'' sneered Adam Akhmadov, a 35-year-old refugee in the Soglasiye camp in Ingushetia, who refused to move to Argun. ``We warned them it is better to sit quietly here. They wanted a better life, and this is what has come of it.''
Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed and several wounded over the past 24 hours in rebel attacks on Russian posts and ambushes of military convoys, the official said. Troops have been put on special alert for the Wednesday holiday marking the end of World War II in Europe.
A European Union delegation returned to Moscow on Tuesday after a two-day fact-finding mission to Ingushetia and Chechnya. Sweden's ambassador to Moscow, Sven Hirdman, said there had been some changes for the better in the war-ravaged republic, including better coordination of government efforts to improve social and economic conditions there.
But he said Chechen civilians had complained ``bitterly'' about the security situation.
``That's the major reason why refugees in Ingushetia do not want to go back, because they feel they are harassed, they feel there are these (Russian) military sweeps and detentions, men disappear, there is this demand for money everywhere. That is what they say,'' Hirdman told The Associated Press.
go to top
- Chechnya - an order too tall for FSB
MOSCOW - The heads of Russia’s so-called power ministries decided over the weekend that henceforth only Chechens are to fight the Chechen separatist rebels and federal troops will serve only at the rear while the federal Security Service (FSB) will check that Chechen operatives remain loyal to the federal cause, reports Gazeta.ru.
Defense Minister Ivan Sergeev, FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and the heads of all the republics and regions in the Southern Federal District and the presidential envoy to the District congregated in the town of Yessentuki over the weekend for a meeting of the operative headquarters of the anti-terrorist campaign in Chechnya.
Interior Minister Gryzlov was accompanied by his deputy General Golubev and the chief of the Interior Ministry troops General Tikhomirov, thus once again the men epaulets over shadowed the civil servants.
It would have seemed logical to dedicate at least one of the days not to the situation in Chechnya itself, but to the situation in the territories bordering the war-torn republic. Firstly because for almost a month now official sources in the command of federal forces in Chechnya have been announcing that rebels are planning incursions into Daghestan or Northern Ossetia, albeit that at the same time the FSB has repeated that now the rebels are not forming groups of more than seven men.
Secondly, the fact the meeting took place in Yessentuki where at the end of March 23 people died in terrorist explosions in that town and the nearby town of Mineralnye Vody should have served as a reminder that the conflict has and probably will again spill over from Chechnya into neighboring regions.
However, Ivanov, Gryzlov and Patrushev decided otherwise. Firstly they spoke about the measures they deem urgently necessary in order to bring order to Chechnya. Interior Minister Gryzlov suggested that night patrols should be introduced in all population centers where there are police (i.e. Interior Ministry) stations. He himself admits that federal forces are only in control in Chechnya during daylight hours. “It’s our new tactic,” announced Gryzlov. “We are trying to control the situation (in Chechnya) 24 hours a day.”
The Interior Ministry proposes that local civilians should be recruited to carry out patrols, however the same ministry deems it necessary that no more than half of the servicemen at any one police station in the republic should be comprised of Chechens. This is the first time the federal authorities have proposed such limitations.
Obviously in Moscow they have concluded that it is not possible to fully rely on Chechen policemen. What is more, the federal authorities have been forced to admit that the FSB is not capable of directing the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya, a task set before the secret service in January by President Putin. Therefore, the much publicized troop withdrawals from Chechnya is to cease, having hardly begun.
It was on Friday at federal headquarters in Khankala that Defence Minister Ivanov announced that troop withdrawals would be suspended. Apparently 5000 defense ministry troops have already left republic and that is quite enough.
Former KGB agent and former secretary of Russia’s Security Council broke the news as if the loud pronouncements in January that troop numbers in the republic would be reduced from some 80 thousand to 22 thousand and that the FSB were to take command of operations had never been made.
On Saturday in Yessentuki Ivanov substantiated upon the decision: “Of course the army has fulfilled its main job. However, now it has other tasks, including assisting the special services to neutralizing the ringleaders of the rebel formations.”
Thus basically the FSB has capitulated but the head of the Defense Ministry is willing to prop it up. As a result, as prior to January, the Defense and Interior ministries along with the FSB will jointly command the so-called anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.
Indeed there are still no signs that the conflict in Chechnya is relenting. The same evening after the federal power ministers and the military top brass congregated in Yessentuki, Chechnya’s most prominent religious leader Mullah Nasrudina was killed by rebels. The Mullah had urged the youth of Novye Atagi not to join the rebel forces. And in Grozny three more civilians were shot dead.
go to top