The Russians are not doing as well militarily in Ichkeria (formerly the Caucasus republic of Chechenya) as they claim, nor are the Chechen fighters doing as badly as the Russian media reports. What Moscow is clearly winning is the propaganda war, having learnt the important lessons from its former enemies in the west.
The Muslims of Ichkeria are facing a long, hard winter as over 250,000 have been forced to flee their homes to avoid Russian military operations and air raids, and many are stranded in the open or with little shelter as the region’s harsh winter weather sets in.
The Ichkerian capital Jauhar-Ghala (called Grozny by the Russians) was effectively under siege again as Crescent went to press. It had been subjected to repeated air and missile attacks in the previous few days, in which hundreds of people had been killed and thousands left homeless
Thousand of Chechen civilians have been killed or driven from their homes in several weeks of Russian military operations in the north of the country that began in the middle of September.
While Russian president Boris Yeltsin spends his few sober moments fighting with whoever happens to be prime minister at the time, his interior ministry troops are trying to assuage their injured pride by provoking fights with Chechen mujahideen. It seems that some people never learn, either from their own mistakes nor from others’.
Former Chechen mujahideen leader, Shamyl Basayev was elected leader of Ichkeria’s unofficial new Mekh Khhel (Shura Council) on February 20. The 35-member Council was established by opposition leaders on February 9, apparently in an attempt to create a de facto alternative to president Aslan Maskhadov’s increasingly isolated and beleaguered government.
Chechen determination to achieve full independence from Russia was emphasized on February 1 when Aslan Maskhadov, president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, laughed off suggestions that he would take a seat in the Upper House of the Russian parliament.