NOVA MOSKVA (INN) - The ESU's battle with rebels in Iylichograd has apparently ended. Guerrilla leaders in the would-be breakaway republic said Monday that they have withdrawn from their positions. ESU leadership is stopping short of declaring victory, but initial indications are that the rebels have given up the fight.
The fighting began 18 years ago when Boer Voortrekkers declared a large sub-tropical section of Iylichograd independent from the ESU, renaming it Neu Transvaal in 2152. ESU leaders say the rebels are supported by the Romanov Hegemony and are without popular support in Iylichograd.
Geneva (UN Press) - Guerrillas who held out against ESU forces for six years on the colony world of Iylichograd said Monday they had withdrawn from frontline positions, apparently ending one of the ESU's worst national crisis since fighting began with the Romanov Hegemony during the Second Solar War.
However, the ESU said it was too early to claim victory and said its forces still had about 200 rebels pinned down in caves in a strategic Iylichogradi village.
Whether the Boer settlers had fully withdrawn as they claimed or had left some comrades behind, their announcement of a pullout seemed to signal a substantial victory for new Eurasian Prime Minister Alexi Bodorov.
Only 13 days before, Bodorov had said he would crush the rebellion in the southern province, within two weeks.
A rebel spokesman in the Neu Transvaal capital Mursoca Sarat said by telephone the guerrillas had been ordered to leave Iylichograd's Regemonov district by their commander, Andrei Mihai, and had done so within the last 24 hours.
He read a prepared statement saying Mihai had ordered the "redeployment" of his forces out of the Regemonov district to begin a "new phase" of his uprising. He declined to say where the guerrillas had gone.
"Early this morning, the commanders of all forces reported that the order had been carried out successfully," he said.
"The Eurasian command continues to report military activity in the Regemonov district, unaware that there has not been a single Boer Voortrekker fighter there for about a day."
The spokesman said the rebels were switching from a "purely military operation" to "military-political" tactics, an apparent signal they were calling a halt to their armed insurrection.
Monday evening ESU officials were still saying the rebels were bluffing. Eurasian vid news reports made no mention of the rebels' claim to have withdrawn.
An ESU Defense Ministry spokesman in the Iylichogradi regional capital Novoslobodskaya described the report as "blatant, unprincipled, unpardonable lies aimed at confusing and misinforming the media."
He said federal troops still had about 600 rebel fighters surrounded in Yarograd, a tiny but strategically important hamlet which has been the scene of fierce fighting over the past month.
There was no way to confirm whether the rebels had completely evacuated their other main bases, in the villages of Tura and Bor above Yarograd.
But the word of a guerrilla withdrawal could not have come at a better time for Bodorov, who came to office three days into the rebellion, which his predecessor had said could split Iylichograd from the ESU if it was mishandled.
ESU officials had made optimistic declarations since the fighting began, but none was more bold than Bodorov, who announced on March 5 a firm two-week deadline to crush the revolt. A week later he said simply: "They have one week left."
Political and military analysts both inside and outside the ESU had remained unconvinced by the leadership's optimism. Officials said last week that they were changing their tactics, an apparent admission that they were in for a prolonged siege.
An expert on Eurasian military affairs at a New Albion-think tank told UN Press hours before news of the rebel pullout Monday: "It is bizarre that Bodorov could have been so stupid."
ESU aerospace craft sporadically pounded the rebel positions for years during the Iylichograd campaign. More than 2,450 Eurasian soldiers have been killed, including highly decorated officers whose funerals received mournful media coverage.