- What tactics are the Chechens using in combating Russian forces?
- How might the weather work to the advantage of rebel forces? Can you cite other instances in Russian military history where weather has been a factor?
- Does the film clip substantiate the narrator's claim that Chechens are engaged in a holy war?
Faced with the overpowering strength of Russian military forces, Chechen rebels have turned to guerilla warfare. This tactic seems to have allowed them greater success than large scale face to face battles.
Small but fiercely independent, the republic of Chechnya has been involved for years in a war for self-determination against Russia. The ruined cityscape of Grozny and the scarred roads and fields of the countryside are evidence of a conflict that has been marked both by brutal occupation and terrorist resistance.
In 1991, General Jokhar Dudayev, leader of the separatist party, was elected as president of Chechnya and promptly declared Chechnya's independence from the Soviet Union. This declaration of independence was not accepted by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who at the time was trying to build a new regime. After a failed attack by the Russian counter-intelligence, Yeltsin directed Russian troops to invade Chechnya in December of 1994. Russian forces seized Dudayev's presidential palace. Despite this and other Russian strategic gains, the rebel attacks continued. Russia momentarily appeared to gain an upper hand in April 1996, when Russian forces killed the Chechen president in a missile attack.
A peace agreement was signed in August of 1996 that postponed consideration of Chechnya's political status until 2001 and recognized de facto independence. Unfortunately, internal conflicts between rival Chechen warlords continued, despite the introduction of varied means of control, including Islamic Sharia courts. In 1999 Russian mounted a second, extended, military intervention in the area in an attempt to reclaim Grozny and weed out rebel fighters. Russian forces instituted a campaign of zachistki - "clean-up operations" - among the civilian population, resulting in the disappearance or death of hundreds of Chechen civilians. Many of them fled the area. Russian attempts to convince Chechen refugees that they can safely return to their homeland are ongoing, but, set against a backdrop of ruined cities, mined fields and an ever-changing security situation, have not met with success.
The Wide Angle film GREETINGS FROM GROZNY is a journey that leads the viewer behind the lines on both sides of the Russian-Chechen conflict. Film crews accompany Russian troops on "cleansing missions" through residential districts of Grozny, and spend 24 tense hours at a Russian checkpoint. They also go undercover in the border regions where there is evidence that radical Islam increasingly motivates Chechen fighters, and provide glimpses into the webs of special interest woven around this horrific conflict by the United States, the Wahabist Muslims and the Georgians.
We automatically turned to guerrilla war. To be honest, we didn't have much choice. The Russian military machine has evolved over so many years that it's not possible for us to stand up against it directly.
The Russians say that there are no more than 2000 rebels active at any time.
Sometimes, they hide as refugees outside Chechnya, some are in the forests, others melt back into the civilian population.
One of our crews made a rendezvous with an active unit; we cannot reveal their names or location.
These are well-equipped soldiers -- their weapons are Russian, their boots and waterproof camouflage are American-made.
The Russians are taking more losses now than when we tried to stand up to them up to them in large, set piece battles. So our tactics are working.
We've been doing plenty of fighting.
It's not very nice weather.
True, but this weather works to our advantage.
Have you destroyed any enemy equipment recently?
Plenty. There, I'm ready now
The rebels are Chechen nationalists and Muslims. Theirs is a holy war -- a Jihad.