Well-armed Chechens await Russian offensive
October 20, 1999
From Correspondent Steve Harrigan
MOSCOW (CNN) -- As Russian forces dig in just north of the Chechen capital, Grozny, Chechen fighters steel themselves in their trenches around the city, waiting for a Russian onslaught.
Fathers and sons set explosives, and snipers practice their marksmanship, ready to defend their territory in what many call a holy war.
"When they bomb from the air, you can't come out of the trenches at all," said one fighter. "But Allah is great, and cannons and tanks don't scare us."
Russian forces entered Chechnya on September 30, quickly seizing the northern third of the breakaway region to establish what they termed a "security zone" to prevent rebel incursions into neighboring republics.
But in the face of the Russian army's heavy air and ground offensive, Chechen rebels have stockpiled heavy firepower of their own. Even some Russian generals admit that in the three years since the devastating 1994-96 Chechnya war, Chechen rebels have become stronger.
"In the last few years they have managed to stock up huge amounts of ammunition, weapons and hardware," said the Russian army's first deputy chief-of-staff, Gen. Valery Manilov.
That firepower includes U.S.-made Stinger missiles, according to the Russian intelligence service. But most of the Chechens' weapons were actually sold to them by the Russians themselves, analysts say.
"They have generally 99 percent Soviet- and Russian-made equipment, and they have all necessary equipment to make effective damage to federal troops and to fight them during a long period of time: Land mines, small and light weapons, air-to-air missiles," said military analyst Ruslan Pukhov.
But training is sometimes in short supply. In the village of Bamut, rebels were forced to read an instruction manual to learn how to operate their single-round rocket launcher.
Only one man dared to stand by for the first shot.
But after a few rounds, the rebels were laughing and smiling, celebrating each shell with a shout to Allah.
Russian planes destroy Chechen rebel convoy, killing 40
Russian Government Internet Network
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