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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Basayev: Situation 'Positive' for Rebels




KHASAV-YURT, Dagestan -- In an interview released Friday, Chechen guerrilla commander Shamil Basayev said resistance to Moscow's rule in Chechnya is growing.


Basayev, who lost a foot when he stepped on a mine Jan. 31, was videotaped last week by the Azerbaijan News Service. The tape was made available Friday by Associated Press Television News.


"Today we can assess the situation as positive for us, especially considering the growth in resistance to the Russian occupiers and the general uprising of national liberation," Basayev said in the interview.


Basayev, wearing a black beret and camouflage jacket, stirred sugar into a cup of tea and appeared to have recovered from his wound, suffered as he and his fighters abandoned Grozny, the capital. He was seated in front of a flag with Arabic writing in a dimly lit room.


Federal troops have taken control of most of Chechnya after rolling into the rebellious republic 10 months ago. Guerrillas such as Basayev have eluded the troops by using forests and mountains to conceal their movements and encampments.


"I spend all my time in the forests,'' Basayev said. "We have bases all over the region.'' He said he stayed out of towns so as not to give the military an excuse to shell or bomb them.


He said fighters get new recruits all the time and were inflicting casualties. "Every day, 30 or 40 occupiers die, this is the average,'' he said. That far exceeds the military's casualty reports. Both sides exaggerate the other's losses and minimize their own.


Basayev, 35, was a leading guerrilla commander in the 1994-96 war in which Chechen independence fighters forced the Kremlin to accept a cease-fire and withdraw its troops from the region.


Troops re-entered Chechnya in September, after fighters from Basayev's group and other militants seized villages in neighboring Dagestan.


Basayev has lost some of his hero status from the first war, since many in Chechnya see him as having provoked the latest round of destructive fighting with the raids into Dagestan.


But Basayev said it was Moscow that had caused the current conflict by exploiting differences between Chechen factions.


Three Russian soldiers died in Chechnya over the past 24 hours, military officials said Friday. Two of them were killed in Grozny on Thursday when their checkpoint was fired on, and another was killed in unclear circumstances in Gudermes, officials said.