Andi militiamen, August 1999, Dagestan, Botlikh District. Photo: ‘Andi and’ Project,

07 August 2014, 13:11

Today is fifteen years after attack of Basaev and Khattab militants on Dagestan

Today is exactly 15 years after the launch of an armed aggression against Dagestan undertaken on August 7, 1999, when militants – Wahhabis – invaded Dagestan from Chechnya. Today, Dagestan is commemorating the victims of those tragic events. The MPs of the Russian State Duma have promised in the near future to address the issue of the status of Dagestani militias, who participated in the warfare in Dagestan in 1999.

On August 7, 1999, over a thousand armed militants invaded the territory of Dagestan from Chechnya. The first settlements on their way were the villages of the Botlikh District, then – of the Tsumadin District; and by the end of August, more than a thousand militants invaded the Novolak District. The core of the grouping of illegal armed formations (IAFs) was made up of foreign mercenaries and fighters of the "Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade" associated with the "Al-Qaeda". The grouping was headed by the Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev and the Islamist military leader from Saudi Arabia known as Khattab.

Initially, before the arrival of federal troops, the militants were opposed by local militiamen and militia volunteers. Three days later, a grouping of Russian troops arrived there; and the militants were forced to retreat back to the territory of Chechnya. In just 1.5 months of the warfare, 275 Russian soldiers and officers were lost; 937 others were wounded. Militants lost about 2500 fighters.

In preparation for the jubilee date, the participants of the session of the regional office of the All-Russian People's Front (ARPF), held in Makhachkala, stressed the need to define the status of Dagestani militias.

According to Mikhail Starshinov, a deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for Nationalities and a member of the Central Staff of the ARPF, the aim of the commemorative events is to pay tribute to those who stood – arms on hands – to the defence of their homeland, Channel Five reports, noting that now the State Duma is drafting a bill that will equate the Dagestani militias to veterans of other warfare.

"We, members of the ARPF, believe that in 1999 the participants of the Botlikh events have shown themselves as true patriots of Russia by opposing bandit and terrorist groupings. However, their feat was undeservedly forgotten. We should remind the country of what these people did, when the country needed their help. Unfortunately, today, there is no monument and no memorial plaque. The issue to equate the Botlikh militias to participants of other warfare has been considered for many years. I'm sure that we'll bring this initiative to its logical end – and the law will be finally adopted; and the Botlikh heroes will not only get their due social benefits, but also moral satisfaction from the fact that the country's gratitude will be fixed," said Mikhail Starshinov as quoted by the website of ARPF.

The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that residents of Dagestan had long been concerned about the status of a militia member. Back in 2007, during a teleconference with the Russian President, a Botlikh resident asked about when the legislation would define the status of the militia. Vladimir Putin then promised to instruct the Russian government to draw up a document that the militias could enjoy some additional benefits.

On November 15, 2011 the Constitutional Court (CC) of the Russian Federation recognized, at the request of the Kazbek District Court, the constitutionality of the provision of Article 3 of the Law "On Veterans", which defines the status of combat veterans having the right to social support. The CC urged the legislators to clarify the legal status of the militias who fought in late 1990s in Dagestan, in order to grant them with the right to state social help.

In June 2013, the Kazbek District Court granted the petition of nineteen residents of Dagestan, who fought against militants in Amir-Kort in December 1997 and who asked to grant them the status of warfare veterans; the court also ordered the relevant bodies of the federal executive power to issue certificates of warfare veterans to the claimants.

In February this year, Umakhan Umakhanov, a State Duma MP, stated that the final version of the bill that would allow the civil militias – the combatants in Dagestan in 1999 – to get the status of warfare veterans and rely on the proper social support, was ready. In case it was adopted, it would cover some 5-6 thousand people, Umakhanov said then.

According to the Regional Public Organization "Union of Defenders of Constitutional Order Dagestan-1999" (RPO "Dagestan-1999"), an obstacle to adoption of the bill is the fact that the Russian Ministries of Defence, of Internal Affairs and for Emergencies and the Administrative Department of the Government of the Russian Federation possess no information on the participation of self-defence groups in Dagestan in counterterrorist operations (CTOs).

The RPO "Dagestan-1999" disagrees with the findings and conclusions of the federal executive bodies, which degrade and rejects the merits of the militia self-defence forces before the Republic of Dagestan and the Russian Federation," says the statement of the RPO, which is available on the website of the Public Chamber of Russia since April 9.

The statement of the RPO "Dagestan-1999" was accompanied, as an argument, by the open letter of the retired Army General Viktor Kazantsev, who was in command of the Joint Group of Federal Forces (JGFF) during the CTO in 1999, and of the Deputy Commander of the JGFF on the Botlikh direction retired General-Colonel Vladimir Bulgakov, who confirm the information about the self-defence militia units.

So far, the "Caucasian Knot" has no information about the consideration stage of the above bill in the State Duma.

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