Russia issues arrest warrant for Chechen rebel leader

russian soldiers January 29, 1996
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EST (2400 GMT)

From Correspondent Brent Saddler and wire reports

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Angered over Chechen rebel attacks, Russia has issued an arrest warrant for the leader of "Lone Wolf," a group of Chechen rebels who took thousands of hostages in the southern republic of Dagestan earlier this month.

The news of the warrant follows Moscow's ill-fated attempt to surround and crush Salman Raduyev and his fellow rebels.

Russian officials said 153 rebels died in the four-day bombardment of the Dagestan village of Pervomaiskaya near the Chechen border and that most of the hostages escaped. But the fanatical Raduyev and nearly 100 other rebels ran the gauntlet of fire and escaped the assault, taking dozens of hostages with them.

It was the latest in ongoing struggles between Chechens and Russians, which has already cost an estimated 30,000 lives and left another 300,000 homeless, mostly civilians. (508K QuickTime movie)

Salman Raduyev Now, as Russian troops brave the bitter cold to enforce Moscow's tenuous hold on the breakaway republic, Raduyev sits tucked away in an isolated Chechen-controlled pocket, where he's revered by townspeople who fear Russian aggression.

Raduyev says there will be a price to pay for what he calls Russia's brutality.

gudermes woman "We will carry out a huge diversionary war against Russia," he said. "Russia will regret it, and the whole world will regret it."

Raduyev's comrade, Shamil Basayev, echoes Raduyev's sentiment: "If the world cannot help stop the Russian aggressor in Chechnya, the whole world will suffer from this."

The threats are being taken seriously, exemplified by Russia's warrant for Raduyev.

"The risk is more than high and more than real," said political analyst Alexander Konovalov. "It is possible now to destabilize the whole Caucasus."

A shaky cease-fire agreement was put in place in July, when the two sides signed a military pact agreeing that Russian troops would partially pull out. In exchange, Chechen rebels had to disarm.

However, Chechnya blew away the peace accord through daily attacks on Russian forces and increased hostage-taking. And distrust is deep on both sides.

Gudermes Last month, Chechen rebels led by Raduyev briefly recaptured Gudermes, the second largest city in Chechnya.

"The Chechens have every reason not to trust Moscow," political analyst Andrei Kortunov told CNN last month.

And in Chechnya, mass destruction exists, yet an undimmed spirit is widespread among Chechens.

"Raduyev and Basayev have done what's necessary to force the Russians out of Chechnya," said one resident.

The battles between the two sides have also drastically affected Boris Yeltsin, who has gained little politically and lost much.

"If he doesn't find some settlement of the Chechen situation, which would at least combine political and forceful measures, he may completely fail in his electoral campaign," said analyst Konovalov.



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