Anti-Russian atrocities spur support for Chechen airstrikes
September 28, 1999
From staff and wire reports
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian planes bombed targets in Chechnya for a sixth consecutive day Tuesday, as a videotape of Chechen militants committing atrocities against Russian soldiers helped rally political support for the operation.
The airstrikes have killed civilians -- including children --in Chechnya, and have caused thousands of people to flee.
Graphic video footage of horrific atrocities, apparently videotaped by the Chechen militants who committed them, has helped solidify political support, CNN reported Tuesday.
CNN's Mike Hanna reported that the video, depicting the execution of several Russian soldiers, was shown to Russian legislators by the Federal Security Service.
In the tape, captured soldiers are shot or have their throats slit, a kidnap victim has his finger removed, and another pleads for his life before being decapitated with an ax, all on camera.
Chechen commanders make no attempt to hide their identities on the tape, leaving no reason to doubt its authenticity.
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has repeatedly denied Russian claims that the breakaway republic is harboring terrorists, but his denial is ignored in Russia's State Duma, or lower house of parliament.
"We should hit, hit and once again hit them until Mr. Maskhadov says that there's nobody left except civilians," said Roman Popkovic, a member of the Duma's defense committee. "Then we should get in and see that for ourselves."
The support from legislators and the public -- bolstered by several deadly bombings that Russian officials attribute to Islamic terrorists operating from Chechnya -- is in contrast to the lack of support for Russia's war with the republic earlier in the decade.
Thousands lost their lives and Russia lost any effective control over Chechnya in that unpopular two-year campaign.
Operation Whirlwind nets results, official says
But Russia responded forcefully to an Islamic incursion into the northern Caucasus republic of Dagestan, launched from Chechnya earlier this summer and led by warlords who spearheaded the Chechen side in the 1994-1996 war.
After driving the militants back across the border into Chechnya, the Russian military began airstrikes against "precise sites" inside the republic. Those sites, officials say, are being used by Islamic rebels.
Russian officials have not ruled out the possibility of some type of ground operation inside Chechnya, but say it would likely take the shape of commando actions rather than an invasion.
The bombing raids have caused thousands of Chechens to flee the area, many into neighboring Igushetia, where they have appealed to the United Nations for aid. Some 60,000 refugees have already crossed into the region.
Inside Russia, an anti-terror operation dubbed "Operation Whirlwind" has led to the arrest of more than 100 people and identified the "terrorists" believed responsible for bombing attacks in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Dagestan's Buinaksk that killed nearly 300 people, Russian officials said.
"Seventeen warlords in Chechnya have been declared wanted and Interpol has been informed," Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo told the Itar-Tass news agency.
Rushailo said the operation had prevented 16 explosions in several towns and uncovered more than 500 tons of explosives.
Russian pilots strike Chechen capital for fifth day
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