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Voice of America, 99-08-08

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: Russian helicopters have fired on an armed group that surrounded a village in a remote northern Caucasus region bordering Chechnya. V-O-A Moscow correspondent Peter Heinlein reports Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has dispatched senior military commanders to the region.

    TEXT: Russian Interior Ministry officials say helicopter gunships attacked a group of armed men around the village of Botlikh, in the southern republic of Dagestan, not far from the Chechen border. The Interfax news agency reported a battle was raging Saturday evening between government forces and what were described as Islamic militants. Official sources say the gunmen crossed the border into Dagestan early in the day and took up positions around three mountain villages. Interfax described the border crossing as an invasion, and said the invading force included as many as 500 men. Other reports put the number at about 200. The reports could not be independently confirmed. Few western journalists dare to venture into the northern Caucasus around Chechnya, where kidnappings for ransom have become commonplace in recent years. Russian authorities immediately sent an additional force to the rugged and sparsely populated region, including one-thousand police officers, a battalion of Interior Ministry troops, and a motorized infantry brigade. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin dispatched the army chief of staff and the chief of Interior Ministry troops to the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala. They are to arrive Sunday. Prime Minister Stepashin played a major role in Russia's disastrous war in Chechnya from 1994 to 1996, which left tens-of-thousands of people dead. Chechnya won de-facto independence in the war, though Moscow maintains it remains part of Russia. In televised comments Saturday, Mr. Stepashin called the invaders bandits, and said they would be dealt with appropriately.

    ///Stepashin act in Russian, then fade ///

    He says -- Russia will not repeat its mistakes of 1994 and `95 in the northern Caucasus. No more Russian soldiers will die there. Chechen officials are denying there was an invasion. Interfax quoted a senior Chechen field commander as saying no gunmen crossed the border into Dagestan. The commander is reported to have said the only forces in the area are what he called -- Islamic Units of Dagestan, and they are unarmed. A Chechen customs official earlier said authorities in the breakaway region are doing all they can to prevent armed groups from crossing the border. Customs chief Khumid Dalayev was quoted as saying -- Besides, the border is packed with Russian units. (SIGNED)
    NEB/PFH/DW/RAE 07-Aug-1999 13:18 PM EDT (07-Aug-1999 1718 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin is flying to the northern Caucasus region, where security forces are said to be battling suspected Muslim insurgents near the border with breakaway Chechnya. V-O-A's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports preparations are underway for a major military operation against the rebels.

    TEXT: Russian news agencies say Prime Minister Stepashin decided to go to the Caucasus Republic of Dagestan Sunday, after a phone conversation with President Boris Yeltsin. Army Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin and the commander of interior ministry troops also flew in to direct what is being described as a "large-scale operation" against Islamic militants surrounding several villages along the border with Chechnya. The Interfax news agency quotes Mr. Stepashin as saying the situation has worsened in the region and that three or four mountain villages are under control of what he calls "criminals". The prime minister said Russia's disastrous war in Chechnya in the mid-90's had scared many people. Still, he says he is not scared. Mr. Stepashin played a key role in the Chechen War, serving at times as chief of domestic intelligence, interior minister and justice minister. Tens of thousands of people died in the fighting, most of them Chechen civilians. The war ended with the withdrawal of Russian troops and de facto independence for the region. News reports Saturday said Russian troops, backed by helicopter gun ships, had attacked militant formations around Botlikh -- a tiny village in the remote mountainous region near the Chechen border. Villagers were reported fleeing Sunday, but the militants were said to be digging in, armed with anti-tank and anti- aircraft weapons. Exactly who the militants are remains unclear. Russian sources say the gunmen crossed into Dagestan from Chechnya and include groups of Arab speakers and fighters from Central Asia. Chechen officials have denied there was any such border crossing, saying that such a movement would be suicidal because of the heavy buildup of Russian troops in the area. Prime Minister Stepashin Saturday ordered an additional one thousand police officers to Dagestan, along with a battalion of interior ministry troops and a motorized infantry brigade. These are in addition to several thousand soldiers and paramilitary forces already in the region. Estimates of the number of Islamic militants around the villages ranges from about 200 to as many as two thousand. These estimates cannot be independently confirmed. Few western journalists dare to venture to the northern Caucasus region, where kidnappings for ransom have become commonplace. Russia's interior ministry says more than a thousand kidnappings have taken place in and around Chechnya in the past two and a half years. (signed) Neb / pfh / dw / wd 08-Aug-1999 06:55 AM LOC (08-Aug-1999 1055 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Russian security forces have attacked suspected Islamic militants for a second day in a remote Caucasus mountain region bordering Chechnya. Moscow correspondent Peter Heinlein reports senior Russian military and civilian leaders have flown to the region to supervise the operation.

    TEXT: Russian news agencies say government troops fired artillery and missiles (Sunday) at what are described as Muslim insurgents surrounding several villages in the autonomous republic of Dagestan. The villages are in a rugged mountainous area along the border with the breakaway republic of Chechnya. The second-day of clashes came as Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin flew to the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, amid reports a large-scale operation aimed at wiping out the rebels is imminent. Army chief of staff, General Anatoly Kvashnin and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo also arrived in Makhachkala, and thousands of additional troops are being rushed to the region. Mr. Stepashin played an important role in Russia's failed war in Chechnya in the mid-1990's, in which tens-of-thousands of people were killed, most of them civilians. He served at times as chief of domestic intelligence, Interior Minister, and Justice Minister, earning a reputation as a hawk for his advocacy of a tough line against Chechen rebels. As he left (Sunday) for Makhachkala, Mr. Stepashin said he felt the need to go to Dagestan because the situation was becoming complicated. He told reporters he was not afraid to accept full responsibility for the outcome.

    ///Stepashin act in Russian, then fade...///
    He says "some people are scared because they remember 1994 and `95 in Chechnya. But I am not afraid to take responsibility." Exactly who the suspected militants are remains unclear. Russian sources say the insurgents are mostly members of the Wahhabi Islamic sect that advocates strict Sharia law in the region. Russian news agencies say several-hundred rebels recently crossed into Dagestan from training camps in Chechnya. The ITAR-Tass news agency reports the rebels are under the command of warlord Shamil Basayev, who earned legendary status among Chechens and hatred among Russians for his exploits during war in Chechnya. Chechen authorities have strongly denied any involvement in Dagestan. They say the rebels are mostly local villagers angered by recent police harassment. The chief of the Chechen Border Guards was quoted as saying the frontier with Dagestan is closely controlled, and tough measures would be taken against anyone attempting to cross it. The accuracy of both sides' statements is difficult to verify. Few western journalists dare venture into the mountainous northern Caucasus, where heavily armed gangs operate freely, and kidnappings for ransom are commonplace. The Russian Interior Ministry estimates more than one- thousand people have been abducted in and around Chechnya in the past two-and-one-half-years. (SIGNED)
    NEB/PFH/DW/RAE 08-Aug-1999 13:03 PM EDT (08-Aug-1999 1703 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Angered by U-S sanctions on some European food imports, a handful of French cafe-owners have decided to retaliate -- by raising the price of Coca-Cola or banning the drink altogether. Julian Nundy reports from Paris.

    TEXT: Last month, the United States introduced 100- percent taxes on some European foods from France, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. The tariffs are a reprisal for the European Union's ban on imports of American beef produced with growth-enhancing hormones. To hit back, some French cafes have raised the price of Coca-Cola -- cited by the French as the ultimate symbol of American cultural imperialism. Some refuse to sell it at any price. The movement is growing in the southwestern town of Rodez, center of the area producing Roquefort blue- veined cheese. In one Rodez cafe, the price of Coke has been set at 100-francs -- or around 16 dollars. In others, customers can only buy Pepsi-Cola. The cafe-owners say Pepsi is acceptable because it is made under license by a subsidiary of Pernod-Ricard, France's biggest maker of the pastis aperitif. Along with truffles, foie gras, and Dijon mustard, Roquefort is on a list of French food that is now subject to a 100-percent American tax. In Dijon, only one restaurant has so far retaliated, but on a massive scale. There, the price of Coke has been put at 500-francs, about 80-dollars. However, the news is not all-bad for Coca-Cola in France. New trade figures show that it has regained its usual market share despite a health scare two- months ago. In June, bottled Coke from Belgian plants and canned Coke from a plant in northern France were briefly withdrawn from sale because of fears the drink was contaminated. At the time, Coca-Cola sales dropped by 30-percent. But, according to French distributors, the American drink is back in first place among French cola consumers -- if they can afford it. (SIGNED) Neb/jn/dw/RAE 08-Aug-1999 07:43 AM EDT (08-Aug-1999 1143 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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