BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Friday, 17 March, 2000, 17:34 GMT
The Dagestan connection
Russian troops rest in the mountain village of Andi
Russian troops found militants hard to defeat

The first battles in Russia's latest Chechen war were fought in in the less well-known neighbouring republic of Dagestan.

More than 1,000 militant fighters declared the independence of an Islamic Dagestan and proclaimed a holy war against Russia in August 1999.

The fighters were members of the Muslim fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, and said they were seeking to install Sharia law in Dagestan.

(Click here to see a map of the region)

They were led by the Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev and the Arab warlord known as Khattab - both experienced guerrilla fighters, who have made it their mission in life to fight the Russians.
The mountainous territory is ideal for guerrilla warfare
Dagestan is home to more than 30 ethnic groups. It is also mainly Muslim, with more in common with its North Caucasian neighbours than with Moscow.

The rebels took advantage of its high mountains and porous borders to pursue their aim of establishing an independent North Caucasus, with access to the Caspian Sea.

But although Wahhabism is strong in some areas, most Dagestanis are moderate Muslims.

Russian response

Vladimir Putin - then Russia's acting prime minister - vowed to quash the rebellion in Dagestan within two weeks.

Chechen reservists were ordered to retreat
Chechen reservists were ordered to retreat
But the rebels proved harder to defeat than Russia had anticipated, and the fighting dragged on for weeks.

Russia lost no time in claiming that Chechnya was the key to the problem.

Moscow decided to begin cross-border raids into Chechnya to destroy rebel bases.

"Chechnya is Russian territory and we will strike at militants wherever they are located," Mr Putin said.

In the early stages of the offensive, Mr Putin said Russia's aim was to destroy the bases of Islamist militants "from a distance" and use "special forces" only at a later stage.

But as the war in Chechnya gathered momentum, Russia's goals appeared to be widening: what began as a conflict against "terrorists" began to resemble a new attempt to crush Chechnya's self-declared independence.

Chechnya's elected President, Aslan Maskhadov, said his government had nothing to do with the incursion into Dagestan.

But in a shift of policy Mr Putin sidelined President Maskhadov, declaring that a long-forgotten parliament in exile had more legitimacy than the leader Moscow itself had recognised in 1997.


(Click here to return)


Key stories

Turkey picture
See also:

25 Aug 99 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes