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#23 - JRL 7015
Russians Reckon About 1,000 Diehard Rebels Left in Chechnya

Groznyy, 13 January: About 1,000 guerrillas are currently operating in Chechnya, of whom 250 are foreign mercenaries, ITAR-TASS was told today by the head of the press office of the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, Col Nikolay Baranov.

"There are virtually no extremists left who are fighting for an idea," he said. "There are upsurges in rebel activity when the latest consignment of money arrives in Chechnya from abroad."

"We're mostly dealing here with the so-called dollar reservists," Baranov explained. "Unfortunately, we don't always manage to close down the rebels' financial channels, but I can say that there is now much less money reaching Chechnya from abroad."

With the onset of winter Defence and Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service commandos stepped up operations to wipe out separatist leaders across Chechnya, including the heads of gangs that have retreated into the mountains during the cold season. "Also, local people are increasingly helping our servicemen to identify guerrillas who infiltrate towns in search of supplies," Baranov said. "For example, over the weekend local people helped us to blockade and destroy a gang on the outskirts of the town of Bamut."

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