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Russia: Chechen Government Asked To Help End Dagestan Fighting

Moscow, 12 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Moscow today called on the Chechen government to aid it in ending fighting between Russian troops and Islamic rebels in Dagestan. The request to Chechnya, whose independence Moscow does not recognize, comes as Moscow said it is planning a massive military operation to drive the rebels from Dagestan. The rebels, led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, seek to unite Chechnya and Dagestan in an Islamic state.

Itar-tass reports that acting Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov made the request in a letter to Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov. There is no word yet of a reply.

Zubov told reporters in Moscow that the military operation will begin in the next few days. Thousands of Dagestani volunteers are said to be joining the fight against the rebels.

The press service of the Russian Armed Forces said jets and helicopters, backed by artillery, today hit insurgents' positions at the towns of Tandur and Rakhta in southern Dagestan. Attacks are also said to be continuing against the rebels' southwestern strongholds of Botlikh and Tsumada where a command post and an anti-aircraft battery were destroyed.

Russian Acting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today instructed the finance ministry to mobilize immediate funds for Russian troops engaged in the fighting.