Moscow, 11 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Islamic separatists fighting Russian forces in Dagestan have vowed to expell non-Muslims from the region. Representatives of the Islamic Shura, or council, of Dagestan told reporters in Grozny (the capital of neighboring Chechnya) today that they had asked Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev to lead the rebellion in Dagestan. At a hastily arranged news conference, Basayev said if Russia leaves the Caucasus then his men will leave Russia alone. Meanwhile, Russian troops have started an operation to drive out suspected Islamic rebels from the Botlikh district of Dagestan. The commander of Russia's Interior Ministry troops, Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, said his forces have already cleared rebels from the Tsumadinsky region and rebels in Botlikh are surrounded. The report could not be independently confirmed.
In Moscow, acting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ruled out
declaring a state of emergency in Dagestan. However, the head of the upper house of the parliament, Yegor Stroyev, said the Federation Council will give its approval if President Boris Yeltsin decides to impose a state of emergency in Dagestan.