Second Chechen War

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Second Chechen War
Image:Russi cecenia1.jpg
Russian artillery in Chechnya
Date 1999 to present
Location Chechnya

North Caucasus

Result Ongoing
Combatants
Image:Flag of Russia.svg
Russian Federation
<center>Image:Flag of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.svg
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Strength
At least 93,000 in 1999 10,000 to 20,000 in 1999 (mostly militias)
Casualties
Unknown, at least 4,600 killed by October 2002[1]
Hundreds of civilians.
Unknown, at least 1,400 killed by May 2000[2]
Thousands of civilians, including at least 2,000 "disappeared"[3].
Conflicts in the former Soviet Union
Nagorno-KarabakhSouth OssetiaAbkhaziaGeorgiaNorth OssetiaTransnistriaTajikistan1st ChechnyaDagestan2nd Chechnya
Image:RussiaChechnya.png
Chechnya and Russia

The Second Chechen War is a military campaign initiated by Russia in 1999 that recaptured the separatist region of Chechnya, which briefly gained de facto independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria following the First Chechen War.

Contents

[edit] Overview

At the turn of the millennium, the Russian military and pro-Russian Chechen paramilitary forces struggled to dislodge determined Chechen separatists. The full-scale military offensive ended with the Russian seizure of the Chechen capital Grozny in 2000 after a winter siege. Chechen guerrilla resistance throughout the North Caucasus region continued to inflict heavy Russian casualties and challenge Russian political control over Chechnya for several more years, while various violations of human rights by the Russian forces drew international condemnation. Meanwhile, in response to the bitter warfare and deaths of civilians, Chechen separatists carried out attacks against civilians in Russia, such as notably taking hostages inside a Moscow theater in 2002 and later doing so in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia in 2004; crises that appalled the world and that led many to criticize Russia's untactful handling of the situations. The exact death toll from this conflict is unknown, yet estimates range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands dead or missing; mostly Chechen civilians.

Although sporadic fighting continues to this day, the Russian military and political campaign has succeeded in installing a pro-Moscow Chechen regime, and eliminating the more prominent Chechen separatist leaders including former president Aslan Maskhadov and leading warlord Shamil Basayev. The war bolstered the domestic popularity of Vladimir Putin, who launched the military campaign one month after becoming Russian prime minister. The sagging fortunes of the Chechen independence movement, plagued by the association with Wahhabi radicalism and the internal disunity between Chechen moderates and Islamist radicals, reflect the changing global political climate after September 11, 2001.

[edit] Historical basis of the conflict

Image:Chechnya and Caucasus.png
Chechnya and Caucasus region

[edit] Russian Empire

The Russian Terek Cossack Host was established in lowland Chechnya in 1577 by free Cossacks who were resettled from the Volga to the Terek River. In 1783 Russia and the Georgian kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, under which Kartl-Kakheti became a Russian protectorate. To secure communications with Georgia and other regions of the Transcaucasia, the Russian Empire began spreading its influence into the Caucasus region, starting the Caucasus War in 1817. Russian forces first moved into highland Chechnya in 1830. Conflict in the area lasted until 1859. Many troops from the annexed states of the Caucasus fought unsuccessfully against Russia in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78.

[edit] Soviet Union

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Chechens established a short-lived independent emirate which included parts of Dagestan and Ingushetia. The Chechen state was opposed by both sides of the Russian Civil War and was crushed by Bolshevik troops in 1922. Then, months before the creation of the Soviet Union, the Chechen Autonomous Oblast of RSFSR was established. It annexed a part of territory of the Terek Cossack Host that was also liquidated by the Bolsheviks. Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia formed the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936.

During World War II Chechens were accused by Stalin of aiding Nazi forces. In 1944 Stalin deported nearly all the Chechens and Ingushs to Kazakh SSR and Kirghiz SSR, and Siberia. Up to a quarter of these people died during the "resettlement." In 1957 after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev allowed to the Chechens to return; the Chechen republic was reinstated.

[edit] The First Chechen War

Main article: First Chechen War

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chechnya declared its independence from Russia. In 1992, Chechen and Ingush leaders signed an agreement splitting the joint Chechen-Ingush republic in two, with Ingushetia joining the Russian Federation and Chechnya remaining independent. From 1991 to 1994, as many as 300,000 people of non-Chechen ethnicity (mostly Russians) fled the Chechen Republic. Chechnya's industrial production began failing after Russian engineers and workers were expelled from the Republic Ichkeria.

The debate over independence ultimately led to a civil war in 1993. The Russians supported the anti-Dudayev opposition forces. The First Chechen War began in 1994, when Russian forces entered Chechnya to restore constitutional order and central rule. Following the 1996 Khasavyurt ceasefire agreement, the defeated Russian troops were withdrawn from Chechnya.

[edit] The beginning of the Second Chechen War

[edit] Chaos in Chechnya

The 1997 election of separatist President Aslan Maskhadov led to turbulence within the country. Despite Russia's early recognition of Chechnya's independence and the 1997 Moscow peace treaty, a chilly relationship between the two nations continued. In May 1998, Valentin Vlasov, a personal envoy of Boris Yeltsin, was kidnapped outside the village of Assinovskaya; he was released on November 13. The Russian government reportedly paid a $7 million ransom for the release of Vlasov.<ref>Tishkov, Valery. Chechnya: Life in a War-Torn Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Page 120.</ref> Further troubles arose in January and February of 1999 as President Maskhadov announced that Islamic Sharia law would be introduced in Chechnya over the course of the next three years. In March of that year, General Gennadiy Shpigun, the Kremlin's envoy to Chechnya, was kidnapped at the airport in Grozny. He was ultimately killed in 2000. Kidnapping emerged as the principal source of income countrywide in lieu of the economic structure; thoroughly devastated by the aerial bombardment campaign, procuring over $200 million during the three year independence of the chaotic fledgling state.<ref>Tishkov, Valery. Chechnya: Life in a War-Torn Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Page 114.</ref>

The Grozny government's grip on the chaotic Republic was weak. On October 25 1998, Shadid Bargishev, Chechnya's top anti-kidnapping official, was killed in a remote controlled car bombing as he was about to begin a major campaign against hostage-takers. On December 10 Mansur Tagirov, Chechnya's top prosecutor, disappeared while returning to Grozny. On June 21 the Chechen security chief, Lecha Khulygov, and a guerrilla commander, Vakha Dzhafarov, fatally shot each other in an argument. In 1998 and 1999 President Maskhadov survived several assassination attempts. The internal violence in Chechnya peaked on July 16 1998, when fighting broke out between Maskhadov's National Guard led by Sulim Yamadayev and radical Wahhabi militants in the town of Gudermes; over 50 people were reported killed and the state of emergency was declared in Chechnya. [4]

On several occasions, Russian special forces raided Chechen territory. In July 1999, the Russian Interior Ministry troops destroyed a Chechen border post, and on July 29, they captured a strategic 800 meter-section of roadway. Chechens responded by firing on the Russian positions at night.

[edit] Incidents in 1996-1999

Despite the signing of the 1996-1997 peace agreements, allegedly pro-Chechen terrorist activity in Russia and border clashes continued.

On November 16 1996 a bomb destroyed an apartment building in Kaspiysk (Dagestan); 69 people, mostly relatives of border guards, died. Three people died on April 23 1997 when a bomb exploded in the Russian railway station of Armavir (Krasnodar Krai), and two on May 28 1997, when another bomb exploded in the Russian railway station of Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Krai). On March 19 1999 51 people died in an explosion which occurred in the central market of Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia).[5]

On December 22 1997 fighters of Dagestani Central Liberation Front and the Arab warlord Ibn al-Khattab raided the base of the 136th Motor Rifle Brigade of the Russian Army in Buynaksk (Dagestan). On April 16 1998 a Russian army convoy was ambushed in Ingushetia near the Chechen border; a general, two colonels and three soldiers were killed, and local Ingush militants were blamed. On April 7 1999 four Russian policemen patrolling the border were killed near Stavropol. On June 18 1999 seven servicemen were killed when Russian border guard posts were attacked in Dagestan.

[edit] Conflict in Dagestan

See: Dagestan War
Image:Shamilbasayev.jpg
Basayev in Dagestan

In August and September of 1999, Shamil Basayev led two armies of up to 1,400 Chechen, Dagestani, Arab and Kazakh militants from Chechnya into the neighbouring Republic of Dagestan. The purpose was to help local Islamic fundamentalists who were under attack by Russian Federation forces in the villages of Kadar, Karamakhi, and Chabanmakhi. This conflict saw the first use of aerial-delivered fuel air explosives (FAE) in populated areas, notably in the village of Tando. By mid-September 1999, the militants were routed from the villages and pushed back into Chechnya. At least several hundred people were killed in the fighting; the Federal side reported 279 servicemen killed and approximately 987 wounded.

The Russian government then began a bombing campaign in southeastern Chechnya, a region which they saw as a staging area for Chechen militants. On September 23, Russian fighter jets bombed targets in and around Grozny. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev vowed that the bombing of Chechnya would continue until "the last bandit is destroyed."

[edit] Bombings in Russia

At the same time as the fighting in Dagestan, a series of bombings took place in Russia (in Moscow and in Volgodonsk) and in the Dagestani town of Buynaksk. On September 4, 62 people died in an apartment building housing members of families of Russian soldiers. The bombs targeted three other apartment buildings and a mall; in total nearly 300 people were killed. The Russian government, including then-President Boris Yeltsin, blamed Chechen separatists for the attacks. Shamil Basayev has denied involvement in the bombings. Some high-profile individuals, including the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky (who is accused of fraud and political corruption by the Russian police and lives in exile)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and U.S. Senator John McCain<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> have suggested that the FSB (the Russian domestic intelligence service) staged the bombings to provide a pretext for an invasion of Chechnya.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> On September 29, Russia demanded that Chechnya extradite the criminals responsible for the bombings in Russia. A day later, Russian troops began their ground offensive.

On January 12 2004, in a hearing at Moscow City Court closed to the public and the press, Adam Dekushev and Jusuf Krymshankhalov were sentenced to life sentences for delivering explosives to the residential buildings. Both were the members of Karachev-based pro-Chechen Wahhabi group, trained by emir Khattab in Chechnya. The alleged mastermind of the bombings, Achemez Gochiyaev, has never been apprehended. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The bombing trial, however, has raised questions by observers.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> <ref>Template:Cite web</ref> One week prior to the trial, the former FSB officer and lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin had been arrested. Trepashkin represented a victim's family and claimed to have obtained evidence of FSB involvement.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Second Chechen War

[edit] Air war

In late September 1999, Russia mounted a NATO-style air campaign over Chechnya for weeks, while the officials claimed the aim was to wipe out militants who invaded Dagestan the previous month. Russian air force commander Anatoly Kornukov suggested there were similarities between the attacks on Chechnya and NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. When the air strikes began, Chechnya's telephone system was among the first targets; soon after, the electricity supply was cut. In addition to its other consequences, the loss of electricity further crippled the Chechen administration's ability to compete in the information war. The air strikes were reported to have killed hundreds of civilians and forced at least 100,000 Chechens to flee their homes.

According to the official data, Russian forces lost some 31 aircraft, including a number of fighter bombers, destroyed or heavily damaged between September 1999 and July 2001 over Chechnya.[6]

See also:Russian aircraft losses in North Caucasus since 1999

[edit] Invasion

The Chechen conflict entered a new phase on October 1 1999, when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared the authority of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and his parliament illegitimate. By calling Chechnya's 1996 parliament its only legitimate body, the premier signaled the start of a land operation. At this time, Russia's new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian troops would advance only as far as the Terek River, which cuts the northern third of Chechnya off from the rest of the republic. Putin's stated intention was to take control of Chechnya's northern plain and establish a cordon sanitaire (buffer zone) against further Chechen aggression.

The Russian army moved with ease in the wide open spaces of northern Chechnya and on October 5 reached the Terek River. Having quickly gained control of the north Chechen plain, the army crossed the river on October 12 1999, and began a two-pronged advance on the capital Grozny to the south. Hoping to avoid the significant casualties which plagued the First Chechen War, the Russians advanced slowly and in force. The Russian military made extensive use of artillery and air power in an attempt to soften Chechen defences. On October 15 Russian forces took control of a strategic ridge within artillery range of the Chechen capital Grozny after mounting an intense tank and artillery barrage against Chechen fighters. In response, martial law was declared in Ichkeria and reservists were called. President Maskhadov declared a gazavat (holy war) to confront the approaching Russian army.

On November 7, Russian soldiers dislodged rebels in Bamut, the symbolic rebel stronghold in the first war; dozens of Chechen fighters and many civilians were reported killed. On November 12 the Russian flag was raised over Chechnya's second largest city, Gudermes, when local Yamadayev brothers commanders defected to the federal side. About 400 Chechen fighters responded to the announced amnesty, first in the second war. However, according to Putin's advisor and aide Aslambek Aslakhanov most of these defectors were since killed, both by their former comrades and by a Russian siloviki (armed servicemen), who by then perceived them as a potential fifth columnists.[7]

Many thousands of civilians fled the Russian advance, leaving Chechnya for neighbouring Russian republics. Their numbers were later estimated to reach 200,000 to 350,000, out of the approximately 800,000 residents of the Chechen Republic. The Russians appeared to be taking no chances with the Chechen population in its rear areas, setting up notorious filtration posts in October in northern Chechnya for detaining suspected members of bandformirovaniya (bandit formations).

By December 1 1999 Chechen militants began carrying out a series of counter attacks against federal troops in several villages as well as in the outskirts of Gudermes, the first major city occupied by Russian troops. Rebel fighters in Argun, a small town five kilometers east of Grozny, put up some of the strongest resistance to federal troops since the start of Moscow's military offensive. Chechen fighters, although suffering severe losses in Urus-Martan, also offered fierce resistance, employing guerrilla tactics Russia had been anxious to avoid.

On November 26 1999 Deputy Army Chief of Staff Valery Manilov said that phase two of the Chechnya campaign was just about complete, and a final third phase was about to begin. According to Manilov, the aim of the third phase was to destroy "bandit groups" in the mountains. A few days later Russia's Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Russian forces might need up to three more months to complete their military campaign in Chechnya, while some generals said the offensive could be over by New Year's Day. On December 4 1999 the commander of Russian forces in the North Caucasus, General Viktor Kazantsev, claimed that Grozny was fully blockaded by Russian troops.

[edit] Battle of Grozny

Image:Grozny war.jpg
Russian troops in Grozny

Heavy fighting continued also elsewhere. By 1 December Chechen militants began carrying out a series of counter attacks against federal troops in several villages as well as in the outskirts of Gudermes, the first major city occupied by Russian troops. Rebel fighters in Argun, a small town five kilometers east of Grozny, put up some of the strongest resistance to federal troops since the start of Moscow's military offensive. Chechen fighters in Argun and Urus-Martan offered fierce resistance, employing guerrilla tactics Russia had been anxious to avoid. By December 9 Russian forces were still bombarding Urus-Martan, although Chechen commanders said their fighters had already pulled out.

The Russian military's next task was the seizure of the town of Shali, 20 kilometers southeast of the capital, one of the last remaining separatist-held towns apart from Grozny. Russian troops started by capturing two bridges that link Shali to the capital, and by December 11 Russian troops had encircled Shali and were slowly forcing militants out; on December 13 Russian General Gennady Troshev ordered the town of Shali to surrender or face destruction. By mid-December the Russian military was concentrating attacks in southern parts of Chechnya and preparing to launch another offensive from Dagestan. Meanwhile, the assault on Grozny started on in early December.

[edit] Battle for the mountains

Heavy fighting accompanied by a massive shelling and bombing continued through the winter of 2000 in the mountainous south of Chechnya, particularly in the areas around Argun, Vedeno and Shatoy.

On February 29, 2000 United Army Group commander Gennady Troshev said: "With Shatoy in our hands, the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya is over. It will take a couple of weeks longer to pick up splinter groups now." Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev evaluated numerical strength of "splinter groups" at between 2,000 and 2,500 men, "scattered all over Chechnya".

In March a large group of more than 1,000 Chechen fighters led by field commander Ruslan Gelayev, pursued since their withdrawal from Grozny, entered the village of Komsomolskoye in the Chechen foothills. They held off a full-scale Russian attack on the town for over two weeks, although they said they suffered from 500-1,000 casualties in the greatest Chechen defeat of the war. [8] The village was totally destroyed. Vladimir Putin put the number of Chechen dead at 600, while the Russian side admitted 350 dead and wounded.

On February 29 to March 1 a Russian VDV paratroop company from Pskov was attacked and wiped out by the Chechen and Arab insurgents (over 500 according to the Russian estimates, 70 involved in the attack according to the Chechen version) near the village of Ulus-Kert, in Chechnya's southern lowlands. While 84 Russian soldiers and officers were killed in battle, the Russian paratroop commander General Georgy Shpak and Chechnya federal commander Gennady Troshev both initially insisted only 31 men died in that battle;[9] the Russians estimated enemy losses at over 300. The Chechens admitted losing 25 men killed in the two-day battle and other fighting in area at the time, and put overall Russian losses at about 200 dead.

Image:24318.jpg
OMON in Chechnya

Also on March 1 a unit of OMON from Podolsk opened fire on an OMON unit from Sergiyev Posad, who had arrived in Chechnya to replace them.[10] The Omonovtsy were traveling in nine trucks to a guard post in Staropromyslovsky city district of Grozny; out of the 98 OMON troops in the convoy, 22 were killed, including the unit's commander, Colonel Dimity Markelov, and 31 were wounded. Immediately after the appalling gaff, the Interior Ministry officers reported that the convoy was ambushed by "unidentified Chechen rebels, who managed to flee by planting booby-traps along their escape route." Independent journalists, however, managed to uncover the truth about the incident.

On March 29 a total of 42 Russian soldiers were killed as a result of the rebel ambush on the OMON convoy from Perm, composed of 41 paramilitary policemen and seven mechanized infantrymen. A column led by Major Valentin Simonov was on its way to conduct a mopping-up operation in Tsentoroi, near Vedeno; only six troops succeeded in escaping and hide in a forest. A second convoy was then sent to the rescue but was also ambushed and at least 20 soldiers had been wounded before the rescue mission was forced to retreat. On the same day, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo that the situation in Chechnya "is being fully controlled" by the Russian military.[11] CNN later showed video footage of the attack, filmed by one of the soldiers killed.

On April 23 a 22-vehicle convoy carrying ammunition and other supplies to the airborne unit was ambushed near Serzhen-Yurt, in the Vedeno Gorge; in ensuing 4-hour battle the federal side lost up to 25 dead, according to official Russian reports. The rebels claimed killing more than 50 soldiers and suffering no casualties, while General Troshev told the press that the bodies of four fighters were found.[12]

[edit] Guerilla war in Chechnya

Despite occuption of most the territory by the federal forces, guerilla fighting continues, particularly in the southern portions of Chechnya, spilling into nearby territories. Usually small rebel units are typically targeting Russian and pro-Russian officials, security forces, and military and police convoys and vehicles - often with IED attacks, and sometimes grouping up for a larger scale raids, with the Russian forces retaliating with an artillery and air strikes and conducting counter-insurgency operations.

[edit] Suicide attacks

Image:Photo09.jpg
2002 Grozny truck bombing

Between June 2000 and September 2004 Chechen insurgents added suicide attacks to their weaponry. During this period there have been 23 Chechen related suicide attacks in and oustide Chechnya, and the profiles of the suicide bombers have varied just as much as the circumstances surrounding the bombings. Most of these targeted military or government-related targets.

[edit] Assassinations

Both sides of the war carried out multiple assassinations. These include the February 13 2004 killing of exiled former separatist Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar, and the May 9 2004 killing of pro-Russian President Akhmad Kadyrov in Grozny.

[edit] Georgia

Russian officials have accused the bordering republic of Georgia of allowing Chechen rebels to operate on Georgian territory and permitting the flow of guerrillas and materiel across the Georgian border with Russia.

  • On October 8 2001, a UNOMIG helicopter carrying observers was shot down in Georgia in Kodori Gorge near Abkhazia, resulting in the deaths of all nine people aboard. [13] Georgia denied having troops in the area, and the suspicion fell on the armed group headed by Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev, who was speculated to have been hired by the Georgian government to wage war against separatist Abkhazia. [14]
  • In August 2002, Georgia accused Russia of a series of secret air strikes on purported rebel havens in the Pankisi Gorge. A Georgian civilian was killed.
  • On March 2 2004, following a number of raids from Georgia into Chechnya, Ingushetia, Abkhazia, and Dagestan, Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev was killed in a clash with Russian border guards while trying to cross from Russia into Georgia.

[edit] 2005 ceasefire and consequences

On February 2 2005, Chechen rebel president Aslan Maskhadov issued a call for a ceasefire lasting until at least February 22: the day preceding the anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechen population. The call was issued through a separatist website and addressed to President Putin, described as a gesture of goodwill.

But on March 8 2005, Maskhadov was "liquidated" in an operation by Russian security forces in the Chechen community of Tolstoy-Yurt, northeast of Grozny, and branded an "international terrorist."

Shortly following Maskhadov's death, the Chechen rebel council announced that Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev had assumed the leadership, a move that was quickly endorsed by Shamil Basayev. On February 2 2006 Sadulayev made large-scale changes in his government, ordering all its members to move into Chechen territory. Among other things, he removed First Vice-Premier Akhmed Zakayev from his post (although later Zakayev was appointed a Foreign Minister [15]).

Sadulayev himself was killed in June 2006, after which he was succeeded as the rebel leader by the veteran guerilla commander Doku Umarov.

[edit] Radicalisation of the Chechen rebels

Image:Img30 2.jpg
Rebel fighters in Chechnya

The Chechen rebels are becoming increaingly more radicalised. Former Soviet army officers General Dzhokhar Dudayev and Colonel Aslan Maskhadov, have been succeeded by people who rely more and more on religious ideology, rather than the nationalistic feelings of the population. While Dudayev and Maskhadov were seeking from Moscow recognition of the independence of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, Sadulayev and Basayev spoke out more and more about the need to expel Russia from the territory of the whole North Caucasus, an impoverished mountain region inhabited mostly by Muslim, non-Russian ethnic groups.

In April 2006, asked whether negotiations with Russians are possible, the top rebel commander and then-new Vice-President Doku Umarov answered:

"We offered them many times. But it turned out that we constantly press for negotiations and it's as if we are always standing with an extended hand and this is taken as a sign of our weakness. Therefore we don't plan to do this any more. And the reshuffle of the (rebel) Cabinet of Ministers is connected to this."

In the same month, the new rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov said that attacks should be expected anywhere in Russia in 2006: "The minimum goal -- not to surrender -- has been met. Today, we have a different task on our hands -- total war, war everywhere our enemy can be reached. (...) And this means mounting attacks at any place, not just in the Caucasus but in all Russia." It was not clear whether Udugov meant a return to the type of terrorist acts, not seen since 2004, or military style operations. Reflecting growing radicalization of the Chechen-led guerrillas, Udugov said their goal was no longer Western-style democracy and independence, but an Islamist "North Caucasian Emirate."

But regardless of goals and tasks announced by the current leaders of the separatists, the insurgents continue to enjoy the support of a significant part of the population of the Chechen Republic.

[edit] Caucasus Front

Image:Img5 6.jpg
Destroyed military vehicle in Nazran after the Ingushetia raid

While the anti-Russian local insurgencies in the North Caucasus started even before the war, in May 2005, two months after Maskahdov's death, the Chechen separatists officially announced that they had formed a Caucasus Front within the framework of "reforming the system of military-political power." Along with the Chechen, Dagestani and Ingush "sectors," the Stavropol, Kabardin-Balkar, Krasnodar, Karachai-Circassian, Ossetian and Adighy "jamaats" were included in it. This, in essence, means that practically all the regions of the Russia's south will be involved in the hostilities.

The Chechen separatist movement has taken on a new role as the official ideological, logistical and, probably, financial hub of the new insurgency in the North Caucasus. Increasingly frequent clashes between federal forces and local militants continue in Dagestan, while sporadic fighting erupts in the other southern Russia regions, most notably in Ingushetia, but also elsewhere, notably in Nalchik on 13 October 2005.

[edit] Restoration of federal government

Russian President Vladimir Putin established direct rule of Chechnya in May 2000. The following month, Putin appointed Akhmad Kadyrov interim head of the government.

On March 23 2003, a new Chechen constitution was passed in a referendum. The 2003 Constitution granted the Chechen Republic a significant degree of autonomy, but still tied it firmly to Russia and Moscow's rule; the new constitution went into force on April 2 2003. The referendum was strongly supported by the Russian government but met a harsh critical response from Chechen separatists. Many citizens chose to boycott the ballot.

Since December 2005, Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the pro-Moscow militia leader known as Kadyrovites, is functioning as the Chechnya's prime minister and the republic's de-facto ruler. Kadyrov, whose irregular forces are accused of carrying out many of the abductions and atrocities, has become Chechnya's most powerful leader since the 2004 assassination of his father Akhmat.

[edit] War crimes and terrorism

See also: Chechnya mass graves
Image:Generalyandiev.jpg
General Baranov ordering a summary execution (CNN)

Russian officials and Chechen rebels have regularly and repeatedly accused the opposing side of committing various war crimes including kidnapping, murder, hostage taking, looting, rape, and assorted other breaches of the laws of war. International and humanitarian organizations, including the Council of Europe and Amnesty International, have criticized both sides of the conflict for blatant and sustained violations of international humanitarian law. Russian rights groups estimate there have been 3,000-5,000 disappearances in Chechnya since 1999. They say Russian troops have used abduction, rape and torture as weapons there and that the government has done too little to punish those responsible. [16]

US Secretary Madeleine Albright noted in her March 24 2000, speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:

We cannot ignore the fact that thousands of Chechen civilians have died and more than 200,000 have been driven from their homes. Together with other delegations, we have expressed our alarm at the persistent, credible reports of human rights violations by Russian forces in Chechnya, including extrajudicial killings. There are also reports that Chechen separatists have committed abuses, including the killing of civilians and prisoners. ... The war in Chechnya has greatly damaged Russia's international standing and is isolating Russia from the international community. Russia's work to repair that damage, both at home and abroad, or its choice to risk further isolating itself, is the most immediate and momentous challenge that Russia faces. [17]

According to the 2001 annual report by Amnesty International:

There were frequent reports that Russian forces indiscriminately bombed and shelled civilian areas. Chechen civilians, including medical personnel, continued to be the target of military attacks by Russian forces. Hundreds of Chechen civilians and prisoners of war were extra judicially executed. Journalists and independent monitors continued to be refused access to Chechnya. According to reports, Chechen fighters frequently threatened, and in some cases killed, members of the Russian-appointed civilian administration and executed Russian captured soldiers. [18]

In 2001 the Holocaust Memorial Museum has placed Chechnya on its Genocide Watch List. [19]

[edit] International response

[edit] Casualties

[edit] Official figures

The following figures are not confirmed by serious academic sources or researches. Military casualty figures from both sides are impossible to verify and are generally believed to be higher.

  • On 25 May 2000, Chechen rebels reported on their website that they have lost 1,380 men since fighting started with Russia in the breakaway republic. A this tme, Russian military officials said they had lost 2,004 soldiers.[20]
  • By December 17 2002, the official death toll for federal troops was about 4,705. However, Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency reported on February 17 2003, that some 4,739 were killed in Chechnya in the year 2002 alone, with another 13,108 wounded and 29 missing. [21]
  • The Chechen separatist sources cite figures of some 250,000 civilians, and up to 50,000 Russian servicemen, killed during the 1994-2003 period. The rebel side acknowledged about 5,000 Chechen combatants killed as of 1999-2004, mostly in the initial phases of the war.
  • On June 26 2005, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, a deputy prime minister in the Kremlin-controlled Chechen administration, said about 300,000 people have been killed during two wars in Chechnya over the past decade; he also said that more than 200,000 people have gone missing. [22] Earlier in 2004, the chairman of Chechnya's State Council, Taus Djabrailov, said over 200,000 people have been killed in the Chechen Republic since 1994. [23]
  • On September 28 2006, Anatoly Kulikov, deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma committee on security said: "In the 12 years of our Russian antiterrorist war in the Chechen Republic, aggregate losses among the federal forces, illegal armed groups and civilians are estimated at about 45,000 people."
  • On November 7 2006 acting Chechen Interior Minister Sultan Satuev said that the 624 employees of the republic's Interior Ministry had been killed and 941 wounded since the start of the "anti-terrorist" operation in 1999.

[edit] Independent estimates

Civilian casualty estimates vary widely, but many say about 80,000 civilians - 40 percent of them children - died in the first Chechen war. Many more have been killed since the conflict exploded again in 1999.

Image:Omon pokhorony3.jpg
Funeral of a Russian officer
  • In 2000 the Russian weekly Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye (Independent Military Review) compiled an incomplete list of 1,176 military servicemen fallen in Chechnya during the first year of conflict. If available the list included name, year and place of birth, rank and military unit, place, date and cause of death. [24]
  • In February 2003, the Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia, estimated that some 11,000 servicemen have been killed, with another 25,000 wounded, since 1999. It estimated the civilian death toll at about 20,000 people. [25] Their estimate for the earlier Chechen war was 14,000 dead troops as compared with the official figure of 5,500.
  • In September 2003 the International Campaign to Ban Landmines reported that almost 6,000 people, 938 of which were children, died or were injured by land mines in Chechnya in 2002, more than anywhere else in the world. It is an especially disturbing figure in a region whose population is less than one million people. [27]
  • In 2004, the British strategic-research centre Jane's Information Group estimated that the federal forces in Chechnya suffered some 9,000 to 11,000 combat deaths during the second war's most intense phase, from its beginning in late summer 1999 to early 2002. In 2003, they lost roughly 3,000 dead. [28]
  • Alexander Cherkasov of the human rights group Memorial pointed out in 2006 that the Russian government did not make any attempt to count civilian casualties in the war of 1994-96, nor after 1999. Many figures have been quoted, some greatly exaggerated; a figure of 250,000 dead in the two wars is sometimes repeated, but without there being adequate substantiation of such a number. Cherkasov's conclusion is rationally arrived at: "The total number of peaceful residents of the Chechen Republic who perished during the two wars may have reached 70,000." He admits that the accuracy of these estimates is not high. With reference to the second war, he concluded: "The total number of civilians killed, including those who disappeared, adds up to between 14,800 to 24,100."

[edit] Influence on Russian politics

[edit] Early conflict

Among ordinary Russian citizens, there existed a strong perception that Chechnya was firmly a part of Russia; the notion that it might secede was implausible and unacceptable, even after events of the First Chechen War. Within the Russian government, there was a concern that allowing Chechnya substantial autonomy might lead to a domino effect—other regions within the already-fragmented former Soviet Union might choose to follow suit.

Motivated by these factors, President Yeltsin authorized the invasion of Chechnya. Many argue over whether Yeltsin genuinely believed that victory would be swift and decisive, or that his assertions to that effect were simply meant to assuage the concerns of Russian citizens. Despite assembling a much larger and better-supported force than was brought to bear in the First Chechen War, the Russian army sustained appreciable losses but won the bloody battle for Grozny.

[edit] Rule of Putin

The election of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency changed the tenor of the Chechen conflict; Putin was often less concerned about Western public opinion than Yeltsin, and continued to prosecute the war. Putin officially reestablished Russian rule in Chechnya in 2000; this development met with early approval in the rest of Russia, but the continued deaths of Russian troops dampened public enthusiasm. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Putin was able to attract more foreign support for his actions in Chechnya by highlighting the links between Chechen rebels and Islamist terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

Although large-scale fighting within Chechnya has ceased, daily attacks continue. The local government is not stable and Russians are mindful of the potential for renewed conflict. Russia continues to maintain a substantial military presence within Chechnya. President Putin and newly-minted Chechen leaders face a difficult task of restoring stability to the region and convincing the Russian people that they can manage the situation effectively. Currently the FSB has taken over the operations in Chechnya. Most soldiers in Chechnya are now kontraktniki (contract soldiers) as opposed to the earlier conscripts. Local militias are also being used to provide security; ironically, many of the militiamen are former Chechen rebels who had defected since 1999.

[edit] Influence on society

[edit] Chechen syndrome

The "Chechen syndrome" among security forces returning from their service in Chechnya spreads an atmosphere of violence and disregarding human rights to other parts of Russia. The regular troops and police carry the Chechen syndrome home with them, haunted by the horrors they have witnessed and committed.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Image:472c.jpg
A Russian soldier in Chechnya

Since the Chechen conflict began in 1994, similar cases have been reported all across Russia: depressed young veterans return embittered and traumatized to their home towns and begin lashing out at those around them; soldiers are psychologically scarred. Russian psychiatrists, law-enforcement officials and journalists have started calling the condition Chechen syndrome (CS), drawing a parallel with the post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by American soldiers who served in Vietnam and Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan. "At least 70% of the estimated 1.5 million Chechnya veterans suffer CS," says Yuri Alexandrovsky, deputy director of the Serbsky National Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow. "Some readjust. Many don't. All need help." [29] Leonid Kesselman, a sociologist from St Petersburg, believes that the eagerness with which Russians use violence to solve problems is one by-product of the cruel fighting in Chechnya. [30]

Police brutality

This is particularly visible in the rising brutality and criminalisation of the Russian police forces. According to human rights activists and journalists, tens of thousands of police and security forces have done tours of duty in Chechnya, after which they return to their home regions, bringing with them learned patterns of brutality and impunity. In a 2003 report, the International Helsinki Federation said "torture, ill-treatment and inhumane and degrading treatment are commonly employed in order to get a confession to a crime." A Human Rights Watch report said that in the first hours after detention, "police regularly beat their captives, nearly asphyxiate them, or subject them to electroshock in pursuit of confessions or testimony incriminating others". Reliable numbers on police brutality are hard to come by. In a statement released January 31, 2006, the internal affairs department of Russia's Interior Ministry said that the number of recorded crimes by police officers rose 46.8 percent in 2005. In one nationwide poll in 2005, 71 percent of respondents said they didn't trust the police; in another, 41 percent said they lived in fear of police violence.

[edit] Impact on the Chechen population

The 2003 World Health Organization in-depth study of the psychological health of the population of Chechnya, which has experienced crisis almost continuously since 1991, concluded that 86 percent of the Chechen population was suffering from physical or emotional "distress" - about 30 percent more than people living in the Chernobyl reactive zone. 31 percent of those studied showed symptoms of ill health recognizable as post-traumatic stress syndrome. [31]

Psychologists are discovering that a whole generation of Chechen children is showing symptoms of trauma. In 2006 Sultan Alimkhadzhiyev, pro-Russian Chechnya's deputy health minister, said the Chechen children had become "living specimens" of what it means to grow up with the constant threat of violence and chronic joblessness and poverty. "Our children have seen bombings, artillery attacks, large-caliber bombardment. They saw houses, schools and hospitals burning. They lost parents, brothers, sisters, neighbors. And they still see tanks and armored vehicles every day in the street. (...) A state of panic. Children are feeling constant fear, a premonition of tragedy." [32]

[edit] Rise of racism and xenophobia

The war in Chechnya and the associated Caucasian terrorism in Russia and ethnic cleansing of Russians in the North Caucasus resulted in growing intolerance and racist violence in Russia, directed in a great part against the people from Caucasus. Even while the Russian authorities are unlikely to label attacks on people with dark skin as racist, preferring calling this "hooliganism", a report in November 2005 found that murders officially classified as racist more than doubled in Russia between 2003 and 2004 from around 20 to at least 45.

A nationwide opinion poll in 2005 found that 61% of respondents approved of the "Russia for Russians" slogan, almost twice the 31% level recorded in 1998. [33] According to the 2006 poll by the Public Opinion Foundation, 12% of Russians see "positive ideas" in fascism; 24% think that people who hold fascist views do not constitute a danger to society.

[edit] References

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[edit] External links

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