Sunday, August 28, 2016

Caucasus Report

Information War Highlights Intensified Fighting In Chechnya

There has been an upsurge of attacks on pro-Moscow Chechen forces in recent weeks (file photo).
There has been an upsurge of attacks on pro-Moscow Chechen forces in recent weeks (file photo).
Over a period of five days last week, militants in Chechnya inflicted serious casualties on pro-Moscow Chechen forces in a series of coordinated attacks in adverse weather conditions.

On February 18, the Chechen Interior Ministry admitted to having lost a total of 17 officers killed, and a further 24 wounded.

It was the second such major battle so far this year.

As such, it demonstrates the enhanced combat effectiveness of the Chechnya-based insurgents, and may also herald a sustained long-term intensification of hostilities.

Ever since the Chechen insurgents retreated from Grozny during the night of January 31, 2000, accurately assessing the intensity of sporadic low-level fighting between the insurgency and pro-Moscow Chechen and federal forces has been bedeviled by a dearth of reliable information.

Russian and Western media tend to promulgate unquestioningly Chechen officials' claims of the losses inflicted on the insurgency, claims that are frequently inconsistent and/or seemingly exaggerated.

The insurgents are not always able to promptly provide their own version of what happened, but their estimates of enemy casualties, whether posted on the main insurgency website Kavkazcenter or relayed in phone calls or SMS messages to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, are almost always higher than those admitted to by Chechen and Moscow officials.

Reports of the most recent fighting in Chechnya's south-eastern Nozhai-Yurt district, on the border with Daghestan, conform to that pattern.

Piecing together and comparing reports from the Chechen authorities, Kavkazcenter, and Chechen officials who spoke to the Caucasus Knot news agency on condition of anonymity, the following chronology emerges.

Differing Death Tolls

Late on February 13, some 30-40 insurgents lured police from Chechnya's neighboring Vedeno district into an ambush and attacked them from two sides, killing five and wounding at least six of them.

The insurgents retreated without incurring casualties despite the deployment on February 14 of heavy artillery and military helicopters.

Kavkaz-Uzel quoted unnamed Chechen sources as saying on February 15 that the search for the fighters had ended unsuccessfully the previous day.

But fighting resumed on the morning of February 15 after the insurgents opened fire on Chechen Special Purpose Interior Ministry forces (spetsnaz). An insurgent who succeeded after numerous failed attempts in calling RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reported against a background of deafening artillery fire that the insurgents had killed four police officers and wounded at least 13.

A Chechen law enforcement official confirmed the killing of four police to Kavkaz-Uzel.

On February 16, Chechen officials said the fighting had shifted to the neighboring Kazbekov district of Daghestan, where Daghestani, Chechen and federal forces backed by military helicopters reportedly engaged in two successive fierce gun battles with three separate groups of insurgents totaling "several dozen" in all.

They said two of those groups were led by Daghestani amirs Ruslan Temirkaev and Arslan Mamedov (aka Amir Muaz), and the third by a Chechen, Makharbi Timiraliyev, 47. (Intercepts of walkie-talkie communications presumably facilitated the identification of the three commanders.)

Five more police officers were reported killed and six wounded in that fighting.
Chechen leader Ramzan KadyrovChechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

As of  the morning of February 17, the death toll among the pro-Moscow Chechen forces was given as 11, with a further 17 wounded, compared with the 14 killed claimed by Kavkazcenter.

No further details were given of fighting on February 17-18, so it remains unclear when and in what circumstances the death toll among the pro-Moscow Chechen forces rose from 11 (or 14) to 17.

Also on February 17, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that Timiraliyev's entire detachment of seven men had been killed in Nozhai-Yurt.

But Kavkaz-Uzel on February 18 quoted law enforcement officials as saying the hunt for the last remaining members of Timiraliyev's group was continuing.

The insurgency website Kavkazcenter confirmed the death of Timiraliyev and four of his men. Five bodies said to be those of the slain fighters were shown on Chechen state TV.

Fighting Spills Over?

Meanwhile, a senior Daghestani official denied on February 17 that the fighting had spilled over from Chechnya to Daghestan.

Security Council secretary Magomed Baachilov told Interfax that military operations were confined to Chechen territory, and no fighters had penetrated Daghestan from Chechnya.

Nonetheless, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service was informed that fighting did indeed take place in Daghestan's Kazbekov district on February 17.

The insurgency's tactics in Nozhai-Yurt were the same as those used in fighting in Vedeno in early January.

On that earlier occasion, one group of insurgents had also lured Chechen police into an ambush; two other groups attacked along a radius of 15-20 kilometers.

The pro-Moscow Chechen losses over a period of several days were officially given as four dead and 14 wounded.

Kavkazcenter cited a higher figure of at least 14 dead and 36 wounded.

The Chechen authorities subsequently produced three bodies they identified as insurgents killed in the fighting.

Chechen human rights activists, however, claimed the men had been taken from Kadyrov's private prison, dressed in winter camouflage, and shot dead.

Just days into the new year, a group numbering around 10 insurgents had opened fire on Chechen police in Yandy, south-west of Grozny, then retreated.

Despite the deployment of artillery and combat helicopters, the hunt for them ended in failure four days later.

If the insurgency indeed succeeded in killing up to 30 Chechen and Russian police in Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt with a loss of only five of its own fighters, that ratio testifies to their increasing tactical superiority.

Moreover, as Kavkazcenter pointed out, the fighting took place in rugged mountainous terrain in heavy snow.

That latter circumstance raises the question: are such attacks the start of a training program to hone insurgents' skills in winter warfare with the ultimate intention of disrupting the Winter Olympics in Sochi in two years' time?

Or do they herald a switch in tactics from occasional high-profile suicide attacks, such as those on Kadyrov's home village of Khosi-Yurt in August 2010 and the targeting of Chechen police in Grozny one year later, to more frequent coordinated attacks on Chechen police in the mountain districts where the insurgents maintain their network of bases?
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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
February 20, 2012 22:30
incredible who much RFE is partisan

And then it pretend also to be considered as an objective Media ...

by: orstkho
February 21, 2012 02:13
"their increasing tactical superiority"
That is just plain retarded. There is no tactical superiority. Stalin deported us to die in cold on 23 February 1944. Those who survived can sleep in the snow even in harsh winter weather. Those russians probably got frozen. Welcome to the North ... Caucasus.
In Response

by: Ingush
February 23, 2012 14:25
Today is February 23 I don't see any news on RFE/RL about the genocide of the Chechen and Ingush peoples like I did see with armenian "genocide". You want to know why? Because we are Muslims.
In Response

by: Moderator
February 23, 2012 15:38
You will find our story on the commemorations here:
In Response

by: tfroa from: los angeles
February 23, 2012 19:13
dude get your facts straight , the Armenian genocide is still widely denied around the world on the base principals of Turkish political and economic threats to any nation or recognized group who would say otherwise. My people have suffered well throughout our history just as well as yours , solely on the basis of geographic advantages our lands may have offered to regional superpowers and their political interests. In the end , religion and faith got nothing to do with it , when a rebel fighter puts his AK down and decides his life can be put to better use for his people and his loved ones by strapping c-4 to his chest. There's just no honor in that.

by: Asgard from: Caucasgard
February 21, 2012 09:18
Russia will get out from our lands. We or our sons will conquer those Sklavenics lands, Tartaro-Slavics blonde Mongoloids, you were hungry peasants. You are not soldiers, your Russian army have no honour to be an army, neither warriors.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
February 21, 2012 13:36
even ordinary RFE/RL staff members had to chime in ...
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 22, 2012 06:40
Jack-USSR. Why are you playing this old "lover of Mother Russia" game ? inferiority complex is common sense of poor Russians, given by Russian Tsardom and elites of Soviet regime. "Everybody is enemy of us !" a classic term of cold Rus literature, to gathering the "sheep Mujiks" together.

Everytime "Mother Russia"s husband "Elites of Sklavenics" used your people like cavy. Russian people abused all the time.

Russians have no rights to be in Caucasus. Caucasus must be under United Nations protection, to save world's ancient cultures, and tens of little nations. Russia can not delete our native Caucasian cultures, but Russia try to scribbling over Caucasian culture.

by: Chechnya
February 21, 2012 19:47
another regular day in Chechnya of russian a$$ whoping.

by: Jack from: US
February 22, 2012 00:05
from other sources it looked like it was local Chechen police (i.e. Kadyrov's men) who were ambashed by their fellow Chechen Wahhabis, sponsored by Saudi Arabia and US government.
Chechen kill Chechens, which is not that much of a surprise since most Chechens were killed not by Russians but by their fellow Chechens. Most victims of US-sponsored Muslim terrorism are other Muslims.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 22, 2012 09:42
to Putin..
Why do you recognize Abkhaz bandits and do not recognize Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Tatarstan and Siberia?
They have more rights to recognize than the Abkhaz bandits ..
In Response

by: Mike from: US
February 23, 2012 01:03
Agree with you 100%. What Putin does in Georgia, is what the Hitler did in Europe. It would be the same if, Saakashvili gave Georgian passports to Chechens and then invaded Chechnya and claimed that its protecting it's citizens.
In Response

by: Ingush
February 23, 2012 14:21
What Hitler did in Europe, Georgians are doing in Afghanistan and did in Iraq. We don't need stinking passports of traitors who betray the Caucasus (first with the Ottomans, then Russians, and now USA) because of the fear of bigger enemy. We'd rather take passports of Finland or Afghanistan. They fight without fear against the mighty agressors. It is better to have weak brave friend than coward big friend.

by: Ingush
February 22, 2012 20:37
Very interesting. No Russians dead? Reminds me when modjahed killed 26 Ingush cops and over 120 Russian cops in Nazran August 2009. Russian authorities reported only 26 dead Ingush cops.
Here is the comment by the Foreign Office Minister Baroness Kinnock about the attack:
"The UK condemns all violence and encourages all sides to work towards peaceful solutions within Ingushetia, and across the North Caucasus.'"

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.