Chechen video challenges Russia's claim war is over


By Fred Weir in Moscow

21 April 2003



http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=399036



Dramatic images released yesterday of the moment 17

pro-Russian special police died at the hands of

Chechen rebels have caused acute embarrassment at the

Kremlin.



The Russian government has repeatedly declared it has

won the war against separatists, but the footage of

the rebel attack broadcast on a Chechen rebel website

suggests otherwise.



The two-minute video, shot from a distance of about

100 metres, showed a Soviet-made bus being ripped

apart by a powerful explosion as it drove at speed

down a country road. The blast appeared to be caused

by a mine or booby trap.



An accompanying commentary said the vehicle contained

15 Russian and Chechen "spetznaz" special purpose

police on their way to a security sweep in a village

near the Chechen capital of Grozny last Tuesday.



After the blast, one survivor was seen staggering from

the shredded and burning remains of the bus.



About a dozen rescuers appeared and began frantically

searching the wreckage. As gunfire started,a second,

smaller, explosion erupted among the searchers. The

commentary said another two died in that explosion.



Russian news reports acknowledged last week that two

local Chechen police officers were killed when their

vehicle struck a mine.



But the video, which can be downloaded from the

Russian-language page of the website

(www.kavkazcenter.com), appeared to show a far more

destructive attack.



The commentary claimed that 17 Chechen "collaborators"

and Russian "occupiers" died in the ambush.



If genuine, the video would be an important propaganda

victory for Chechen rebels in their efforts to

convince the world that their struggle is still alive

and that they remain able to strike at Russian forces

within sight of Grozny.



In a wave of attacks over the weekend, rebels opened

fire on Russian positions 15 times, killing at least

eight soldiers and wounding several others, news

agencies reported.



Using mortars, machine- guns and grenade launchers,

dozens of rebels assaulted a Russian military barracks

in the village of Yalkhoi-Molk, in the Kurchaloy

region of southeastern Chechnya, on Saturday, killing

two Russian soldiers.



Two Russian invasions of Chechnya in the past eight

years to put down a separatist rebellion have killed

an estimated 100,000 civilians and forced nearly a

third of the tiny republic's population of one million

into refugee camps.



But the rebels, who enjoyed widespread sympathy after

the latest Russian invasion in 1999, have been facing

growing isolation in world public opinion since Moscow

joined America began its war on terrorism almost two

years ago. In recent months, Washington has listed

three Chechen groups on its terrorism "watch list".



Last week, for the second year running, America

refused to back a resolution condemning Russia's war

in Chechnya in the United Nations Human Rights

Commission, and the measure failed.



The Kremlin claims that the rebels are a spent force,

and that the republic is returning to peace under the

pro-Moscow administration of Akhmad Kadyrov.



In a referendum last month, Chechens voted

overwhelmingly for a new republican constitution,

under which Mr Kadyrov is expected to be elected

president later this year. 






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