Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 191
October 15, 1999 03:00 AM Age: 16 yrs
Category: Monitor


A Chechen resident of the village Mikenskaya, in the Chechnya's Naursk region, shot forty-one ethnic Russians living there, most of them elderly, in revenge for the introduction of Russian troops into the breakaway republic. The inhabitants of the village, who are mostly ethnic Russians, organized a public trial of the murderer and executed him in the village square (NTV, RTR, ORT, October 14). This incident reflects a significant difference between the situation today and that in 1994-96.

Prior to the introduction of Russian troops into Chechnya in 1994, some 300,000 ethnic Russian lived in the republic, but a majority of them left following the December 1994 Russian invasion. There is no precise data on the number of Russians in Chechnya today, but the general number is thought to be several tens of thousands, mostly elderly. These people could become hostages of the Chechen fighters.

In the previous military campaign, hundreds of Russian and foreign journalists worked in the areas controlled by the separatists. At that time, the Chechen side worked hard to convey the image of being a resistance movement. In contrast to the federal forces' indiscriminate bombing, which also claimed the lives of local Russians, the behavior of the Chechen fighters toward local Slavs was pointedly proper. Official Chechen propaganda constantly emphasized that their war was directed not at the Russian people, but against the "criminal regime." However, after the end of the war, the large number of kidnappings meant that journalists stopped coming to the republic. Today Chechnya is essentially under an "information blockade." Given that the absence of media means that Djohar has practically no chance of winning the propaganda war against Moscow, there is no longer any sense in showing concern for the fate of local Slavs. This increases the likelihood that they will be the victims of revenge attacks by local Chechens.

Meanwhile, the fighting in the northern part of Chechnya has been intensifying. According the Chechen authorities, Russian aviation bombed the Shekh Mansur airport near the Chechen capital. The Chechens claimed to have shot down an SU-24 jet, but Moscow categorically denied the claim. The Russians are continuing their siege of the village of Goragorsky, and have also started an operation to take the mountain town of Bamut, which, during the 1994-1996 campaign, Russian forces were unable to seize, despite numerous attempts. Ilyas Bogatyrev, a correspondent for the Russian television company Vzglyad, who returned from Chechnya on October 12, told the Monitor that there are practically no civilians left in Bamut, and that the town has been turned into a well-fortified base for Chechen fighters. Bogatyrev also said that the Russian forces are firing ground-to-ground missiles at Bamut--a weapons system not employed during the previous military campaign.





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