The First Chechen War (First Russian-Chechen War)

The First Chechen War (First Russian-Chechen War)

The First Chechen War, also known as the First Chechen Campaign or the First Russian-Chechen War, was fought between December 1994 and August 1996 by the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria against the Russian Federation. The Russian Intervention in Ichkeria, in which Russia attempted to topple the Ichkerian government in secret, preceded the first conflict. Following the catastrophic Battle of Grozny in 1994–1995, Russian federal forces sought to seize control of Chechnya's mountainous region, but were met with fierce resistance from Chechen rebels and incursions into the flatlands. Despite Russia's overwhelming advantages in firepower, manpower, weaponry, artillery, combat vehicles, airstrikes, and air support, widespread demoralization of federal forces and widespread public opposition to the conflict led Boris Yeltsin's government to declare a ceasefire with the Chechens in 1996, and eventually a peace treaty in 1997.

The official death toll for Russian military personnel was 5,732; most estimates range from 3,500 to 7,500, with some estimating as high as 14,000 dead. Although exact details on the number of Chechen forces killed or missing are unknown, estimates range from 3,000 to 17,391. According to various estimates, between 30,000 and 100,000 civilians were murdered and potentially over 200,000 were injured in the battle, which displaced over 500,000 people and left cities and villages across the republic in ruins. Due to violence and prejudice, the non-Chechen population has decreased significantly as a result of the conflict.

Origins

Chechnya within Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union

Chechen opposition to Russian imperialism dates back to 1785, when Sheikh Mansur, the Caucasian peoples' first imam (leader), was alive. In order to stave off Russian invasions and expansion, Alexander gathered several North Caucasian countries under his authority.

Following a long period of local resistance during the 1817–1864 Caucasian War, Imperial Russian armies overcame the Chechens in the late 1800s, annexed their territory, and deported thousands to the Middle East. Following the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, the Chechens attempted to attain independence, but were unsuccessful, and Chechnya became part of Soviet Russia in 1922, and then part of the newly created Soviet Union in December 1922. (USSR). The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was formed in 1936 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

More than half a million Chechens, Ingush, and other North Caucasian people were ethnically cleansed and transported to Siberia and Central Asia on the instructions of NKVD head Lavrentiy Beria in 1944. Despite many Chechens and Ingush being united with the Soviet Union and fighting against the Nazis, and even winning the Soviet Union's highest military medal, the official rationale was retribution for collaborating with invading German forces during the 1940–1944 conflict in Chechnya (e.g. Khanpasha Nuradilov, Movlid Visaitov). The Chechen-Ingush Republic was disbanded by Soviet authorities in March 1944. In 1957, Soviet first secretary Nikita Khrushchev allowed the Vainakh (Chechen and Ingush) peoples to return to their homeland and re-established their country.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation Treaty

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia became an independent country. The Russian Federation was largely recognized as the USSR's successor state, but it had lost most of its military and economic power. Despite the fact that ethnic Russians made up more than 80% of the population of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, major ethnic and religious divides in some areas created a threat of political collapse. During the Soviet era, ethnic enclaves with varied official federal powers were granted to several of Russia's nearly 100 nationalities. In the early 1990s, the relationship between these groups and the federal government, as well as aspirations for autonomy, became a major political issue. Boris Yeltsin used these proposals as part of his 1990 election campaign, claiming that they were a top priority.

A statute to precisely define the authority of each federal subject was urgently needed. The Federation Treaty was signed bilaterally with 86 out of 88 federal subjects on March 31, 1992, by Yeltsin and Ruslan Khasbulatov, then leader of the Russian Supreme Soviet and an ethnic Chechen himself. Demands for increased autonomy or independence were nearly always met with concessions of regional autonomy and tax breaks. The treaty defined three sorts of federal subjects as well as the powers that were reserved for the local and federal governments. Chechnya and Tatarstan were the two federal subjects who did not sign the pact. In early 1994, Yeltsin negotiated a special political agreement with Tatarstan's president, Mintimer Shaeymiev, recognizing many of the republic's demands for increased autonomy within Russia; Chechnya remained the only federal subject that did not sign the treaty. The situation developed into a full-scale conflict because neither Yeltsin nor the Chechen administration attempted genuine dialogue.

Chechen Declaration of Independence

Meanwhile, militants from the All-National Congress of the Chechen People (NCChP), a group founded by former Soviet Air Force general Dzhokhar Dudayev, invaded a session of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR Supreme Soviet on September 6, 1991, with the goal of declaring independence. The storm killed Vitaly Kutsenko, the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Grozny chapter, who was defenestrated or fell while attempting to flee. The administration of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic of the Soviet Union was virtually abolished as a result of this.

Chechnya's president and parliament were elected on October 27, 1991. The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union had declared the elections illegitimate the day before in the local Chechen press. With a turnout of 72 percent, Dudayev received 90.1 percent of the vote.

Dudayev defeated the interim government, which was backed by the central government, with overwhelming popular support (as proven by following presidential elections with high turnout and a clear Dudayev victory). He was elected president and the Soviet Union was de-facto de-facto de-facto de-facto de-facto de-

Internal Troops were ordered to Grozny by Yeltsin in November 1991, but they were forced to retreat when Dudayev's men surrounded them at the airport. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic split in two in June 1992, amidst the Ingush armed war with another Russian republic, North Ossetia, after Chechnya declared independence. Chechnya gained full independence from Moscow in 1993 as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, while Ingushetia joined the Russian Federation shortly after (ChRI).

Internal Conflict in Chechnya and the Grozny–Moscow Tensions

Thousands of people of non-Chechen ethnicity fled the country between 1991 and 1994, citing tales of violence and discrimination against the non-Chechen minority (mostly Russians, Ukrainians and Armenians). During the unofficial Chechen civil war, supporters and opponents of Dudayev struggled for control, sometimes in bloody clashes with heavy weapons. The opposition attempted a coup d'état in March 1992, but it was suppressed by force. Dudayev imposed direct presidential control a month later and dissolved the Chechen parliament in June 1993 to avert a referendum on a vote of no confidence. In late October 1992, Russian forces stationed in the Ossetian-Ingush conflict zone were ordered to move to the Chechen border; Dudayev, viewing this as "aggression against the Chechen Republic," declared a state of emergency and threatened general mobilization if the Russian troops did not withdraw. He did not provoke Russian soldiers in order to avert the invasion of Chechnya.

Following another coup attempt in December 1993, the opposition formed the Provisional Council of the Chechen Republic as a possible alternative government for Chechnya, appealing to Moscow for help. The opposition coalition based in north Chechnya launched a large-scale violent effort to depose Dudayev's administration in August 1994.

The point of debate, however, was not independence from Russia; even the opposition admitted that there was no other option but an international border separating Chechnya from Russia. Ethnic Chechens, like most other seceding republics except Tatarstan, universally supported the establishment of an independent Chechen state in 1992, according to Russian newspaper Moscow News[31], and in 1995, during the heat of the First Chechen War, Khalid Delmayev, an anti-Dudayev member of an Ichkerian liberal coalition, stated that "Chechnya's statehood may be postponed... but cannot be avoided." Dudayev faced opposition mostly because of his internal policies and personality: he famously asserted that Russia was attempting to destabilize his country by "artificially causing earthquakes" in Georgia and Armenia. This did not sit well with most Chechens, who came to regard him as a national embarrassment at times (while still a patriot at others), but it did not, as most Western analysts point out, undermine the desire for independence.

Separatist troops were secretly supplied with financial aid, military weapons, and mercenaries by Moscow. Russia also halted all commercial flights to Grozny while establishing a military blockade of the republic, and unmarked Russian aircraft finally commenced combat operations over Chechnya. In mid-October 1994, opposition groups, aided by Russian troops, started a clandestine but poorly organized assault on Grozny, which was followed by a larger invasion on November 26–27. Despite Russian assistance, both attacks failed. Dudayev supporters were successful in arresting 20 Russian Army regulars and roughly 50 additional Russian citizens who were secretly enlisted to fight with the Provisional Council forces by the Russian FSK state security organization. President Boris Yeltsin issued an ultimatum to all Chechen warring factions on November 29th, demanding that they disarm and surrender. When the Grozny administration refused, Yeltsin ordered the Russian army to use force to "establish constitutional order."

Beginning on December 1, Russian forces openly bombarded Chechnya with significant aircraft bombardments. Five days after Dudayev and Russian Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev agreed to "avoid further use of force," Russian forces entered the republic on December 11, 1994, to "restore constitutional order in Chechnya and defend Russia's territorial integrity." Grachev promised that a single airborne regiment could topple Dudayev in a matter of hours, and that it would be "a bloodless blitzkrieg that would not continue any longer than 20 December."

Russian Military Intervention and Initial Stages

Russian forces started a three-pronged offensive assault on Grozny on December 11, 1994. The main offensive was momentarily delayed by General Eduard Vorobyov [Wikidata], the deputy commander of the Russian Ground Forces, who then resigned in protest, calling it "a crime" to "send the army against its own people." Many in Russia's military and government were also opposed to the war. Emil Pain, Yeltsin's nationality adviser, and General Boris Gromov, Russia's Deputy Minister of Defense and a key commander in the Afghan War, both resigned in protest of the invasion ("It will be a slaughter, another Afghanistan," Gromov declared on television). More than 800 professional troops and commanders refused to participate in the operation; 83 were found guilty and the remainder were discharged by military courts. General Lev Rokhlin later refused to be honored as a Hero of the Russian Federation for his contribution to the war effort.

The Chechen Air Force (as well as the republic's civilian aircraft fleet) were completely destroyed in the first few hours of the war, while roughly 500 people took advantage of Yeltsin's amnesty for members of Dzhokhar Dudayev's armed factions, which he declared in mid-December. Boris Yeltsin's cabinet's expectations of a swift surgical strike followed by Chechen capitulation and regime change were, however, mistaken. Russia was thrown into a quagmire almost immediately. The Russian forces' morale was low from the start, as they were ill-prepared and didn't comprehend why or even where they were being sent. Some Russian units opposed orders to advance, and some even sabotaged their own equipment. In Ingushetia, civilian demonstrators halted the western column and set fire to 30 military vehicles, while roughly 70 conscripts deserted. The northern column's advance was halted at Dolinskoye by unexpected Chechen opposition, and the Russian soldiers suffered their first major losses. A party of 50 Russian paratroopers surrendered to the local Chechen militia after being abandoned after being dropped behind enemy lines by helicopters to capture a Chechen weapons stash.

The Russian Army was ordered by Yeltsin to demonstrate restraint, but it was unprepared and untrained for this. Even among those who initially supported the Russians' attempts to depose Dudayev, civilian casualties swiftly increased, alienating the Chechen community and increasing resentment toward Russian forces. Other issues arose as a result of Yeltsin's decision to send in freshly trained conscripts from adjacent regions rather than regular troops. Chechen insurgents with highly mobile formations suffered heavy losses on the Russian troops, who were ill-prepared and disheartened. Despite orders from the Russian military command to only attack designated targets, Russian forces instead attacked random positions due to a lack of training and experience, resulting in carpet bombing and indiscriminate rocket artillery barrages, causing massive casualties among Chechen and Russian civilians. The Russian airborne forces seized the military airstrip near to Grozny on December 29 and withstood a Chechen armoured counter-attack in the Battle of Khankala; the next objective was the city itself, in a rare case of a Russian outright triumph. The Chechens hurriedly put up defensive combat positions and gathered their men throughout the city as the Russians closed in on the capital.

Storming of Grozny

Thousands of civilians were killed in a week-long series of air attacks and artillery bombardments when the Russians besieged the Chechen capital, the worst bombing campaign in Europe since the destruction of Dresden. The initial assault on New Year's Eve 1994 resulted in a severe Russian defeat, with heavy casualties and, at first, a near-total breakdown of Russian morale. The disaster cost the lives of an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Russian soldiers, the majority of whom were untrained and bewildered conscripts; the 131st 'Maikop' Motor Rifle Brigade, which was entirely destroyed in the combat near the central railway station, suffered the largest losses. Despite the early Chechen setback of the New Year's assault and the several more deaths suffered by Russian forces, Grozny was eventually taken by Russian forces in a tough urban battle. After tank attacks failed, the Russian military decided to use air power and artillery to seize the city. Simultaneously, the Russian military accused Chechen forces of using people as human shields by preventing them from fleeing the capital, which was under siege. Russian Major-General Viktor Vorobyov was killed by mortar fire on January 7, 1995, becoming the first of several Russian generals slain in Chechnya. Despite high casualties, Russian forces took the remains of the Chechen presidential palace on January 19, when the Chechens eventually abandoned their positions in the damaged downtown area after a three-week battle. The war for the city's southern reaches lasted until March 6, 1995, when it was declared officially over.

According to Sergei Kovalev, Yeltsin's human rights adviser, around 27,000 people killed in the first five weeks of conflict. Dmitri Volkogonov, a Russian historian and general, estimated that the Russian military's bombing of Grozny killed roughly 35,000 civilians, including 5,000 children, with ethnic Russians accounting for the vast bulk of those murdered. While military casualties are unknown, the Russian side has claimed to losing or missing 2,000 soldiers. Grozny's massacre startled Russia and the rest of the world, prompting harsh criticism of the conflict. The scenes were described as "unimaginable catastrophe" by OSCE monitors, while former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called the war a "disgraceful, bloody adventure" by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl called it "pure madness" by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Continued Russian Offensive

Following Grozny's defeat, the Russian government gradually but steadily established its influence over the lowlands and subsequently into the highlands. On 7 April, the OMON and other federal forces slaughtered at least 103 residents while taking the border settlement of Samashki, in what was dubbed the war's biggest atrocity (several hundred more were detained and beaten or otherwise tortured). On 15 April, the Russians launched an offensive throughout the entire front in the southern mountains, advancing in massive columns of 200–300 vehicles. The ChRI soldiers defended Argun, first relocating their military headquarters to the entirely encircled Shali, then to Serzhen-Yurt as they were forced into the mountains, and eventually to Shamil Basayev's ancestral stronghold of Vedeno. Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest city, was surrendered without a fight, while Ruslan Gelayev's soldiers fought for and defended the village of Shatoy. The Chechen command eventually withdrew from the Vedeno area to Dargo, a Chechen opposition-aligned settlement, and then to Benoy. Between January and June 1995, when Russian forces seized most of the republic in a conventional operation, their losses in Chechnya were estimated to be over 2,800 killed, 10,000 wounded, and more than 500 missing or captured, according to a US Army analytical report. Some Chechen rebels, however, infiltrated already-pacified areas, hiding among returning evacuees.

As the war progressed, separatists resorted to mass kidnappings in an attempt to sway the Russian public and government. In the Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis in June 1995, a group led by the maverick field commander Shamil Basayev took over 1,500 people hostage in southern Russia; about 120 Russian civilians died before a ceasefire was signed after negotiations between Basayev and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The raid put a brief halt to Russian military operations, giving the Chechens time to regroup and prepare for their upcoming nationwide militant campaign. Many of Dudayev's opponents joined his forces as a result of the full-scale Russian onslaught, and thousands of volunteers swelled the ranks of mobile militant units. Many more organized local self-defense militia organizations to defend their villages in the event of federal offensive action, with a total of 5,000–6,000 armed men by late 1995. According to the Chechen headquarters, the ChRI forces fielded 10,000–12,000 full-time and reserve fighters at any given moment. A UN investigation claims that the Chechen rebel forces comprised a considerable number of juvenile combatants, some as young as 11 years old and including females. As their grip over area dwindled, the separatists resorted to standard guerrilla warfare methods including planting booby traps and mining routes in enemy territory. The employment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was particularly impressive, as was the efficient use of a combination of mines and ambushes.

In the fall of 1995, a bomb blast in Grozny badly injured and disabled Gen. Anatoliy Romanov, the federal commander in Chechnya at the time. The attack was blamed on rogue Russian military elements, as it dashed hopes for a long-term ceasefire based on the growing trust between Gen. Romanov and ChRI Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, a former Soviet Army colonel; the two had traveled to southern Chechnya in August in an attempt to persuade local commanders to release Russian prisoners. In February 1996, federal and pro-Russian Chechen soldiers in Grozny opened fire on tens of thousands of civilians participating in a major pro-independence peace march, killing a number of demonstrators. The presidential mansion, which served as a symbol of Chechen independence, was demolished two days later.

Human Rights and War Crimes

Human rights groups have accused Russian soldiers of using indiscriminate and disproportionate force when confronted with resistance, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians (for example, according to Human Rights Watch, Russian artillery and rocket attacks killed at least 267 civilians during the December 1995 separatist raid on Gudermes). Throughout the campaign, the prevailing Russian approach was to utilize heavy artillery and air strikes, prompting some Western and Chechen sources to label the air strikes as purposeful terror bombing on Russian territory. Ironically, ethnic Chechens in Grozny were able to seek sanctuary among their teips in the adjacent villages of the countryside, resulting in a large proportion of first civilian casualties among ethnic Russians who were unable to find viable escape routes. Villages, on the other hand, were intensively targeted from the start of the battle (Russian cluster bombs, for example, killed at least 55 civilians during the 3 January 1995 Shali cluster bomb attack).

Russian soldiers frequently blocked citizens from fleeing dangerous situations and humanitarian organizations from assisting those in need. It was widely believed that Russian troops, particularly those belonging to the MVD, tortured and executed separatist sympathizers on a regular basis; they were frequently linked to zachistka ("cleansing" raids, which affected entire town districts and villages suspected of harboring boyeviki – separatist fighters). Humanitarian and humanitarian organizations documented a pattern of Russian forces randomly murdering, rapping, and plundering citizens, frequently without regard for their nationality. Separatist fighters kidnapped or killed Chechens suspected of being collaborators, and abused civilian captives and federal prisoners of war on a large scale (especially pilots). Separatists and federal forces both kidnapped civilians for ransom and used them as human shields during fighting and troop movements (for example, a group of besieged Russian troops kidnapped about 500 civilians at Grozny's 9th Municipal Hospital).

When Russian forces committed infractions, their superiors frequently tolerated them and did not punish them, even when they were examined (the story of Vladimir Glebov serving as an example of such policy). However, the Russian population was exposed to mainly unedited images of the devastation through television and newspaper reporting. As a result of the Russian media's portrayal, public confidence in the government has eroded, and President Yeltsin's popularity has plummeted. Chechnya was one of the most difficult issues for Yeltsin to overcome during his 1996 presidential campaign. Furthermore, the protracted war in Chechnya, particularly numerous accounts of horrific violence against civilians, instilled dread and distrust in other ethnic groups in the federation. The Samashki massacre was one of the most well-known war crimes committed by Russian soldiers, according to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:

"On the 7th and 8th of April 1995, a massacre of over 100 people, mostly civilians, took place in the village of Samashki in Chechnya's west. Federal soldiers purposefully and arbitrarily targeted civilians and civilian buildings in Samashki, according to the statements of 128 eyewitnesses, by shooting inhabitants and torching houses with flamethrowers. According to the majority of witnesses, many OMON personnel were inebriated or under the influence of drugs. They started fire or tossed explosives into basements where civilians were hiding, especially women, elderly people, and children."

Spread of the War

The proclamation by Chechnya's Chief Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov that the ChRI is waging a Jihad (battle) against Russia has sparked fears that Jihadis from other regions, possibly even outside Russia, will join the conflict. Up to 5,000 non-Chechens served as foreign volunteers, according to one estimate, motivated by religious and/or nationalistic causes.

Ingushetia, a neighboring small Russian republic, saw limited fighting, largely when Russian commanders moved soldiers over the border in pursuit of Chechen fighters, while 200,000 refugees (from Chechnya and the battle in North Ossetia) put a burden on the country's already fragile economy. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev has denounced Russian military intrusions on multiple times, threatening to sue the Russian Ministry of Defense for damages caused, noting how the Russian federal forces participated in the deportation of the Ingush population from North Ossetia. In Ingushetia, undisciplined Russian soldiers were also accused of murdering, raping, and looting (at least nine Ingush civilians and an ethnic Bashkir soldier were killed by apparently drunk Russian soldiers in an incident partially witnessed by visiting Russian Duma deputies; earlier, drunken Russian soldiers killed another Russian soldier, five Ingush villagers, and even Ingushetia's health minister).

In the republic of Dagestan, even greater and more lethal acts of hatred took place. In response to the large-scale Chechen hostage taking in Kizlyar, Dagestan (in which over 2,000 hostages were taken), Russian forces completely destroyed the border village of Pervomayskoye in January 1996, drawing harsh criticism from this previously loyal republic and escalating domestic dissatisfaction. The Don Cossacks of southern Russia, who were initially supportive to the Chechen cause, became hostile as a result of their Russian-esque culture and language, greater ties to Moscow than Grozny, and a history of war with indigenous peoples like the Chechens. The Kuban Cossacks began organizing against the Chechens, including manning paramilitary barricades to prevent entrance into their lands.

In the meantime, the Chechen War has generated new types of separatist activity in Russia. Other republics expressed strong opposition to the conscription of males from minority ethnic groups to fight in Chechnya, with many passing laws and decrees on the matter. The administration of Chuvashia, for example, issued a proclamation granting legal protection to republican soldiers who declined to fight in the Chechen war and limiting the deployment of the federal army in ethnic or regional disputes within Russia. Some regional and municipal legislative organizations have asked for a ban on the use of draftees in resolving domestic problems, while others have requested an outright ban on the deployment of the military in such instances. Officials in Russia feared that ending the conflict without a victory might set off a chain reaction of secession attempts by other ethnic groups.

On January 16, 1996, a Turkish passenger ship carrying 200 Russian passengers was hijacked by largely Turkish gunmen trying to raise awareness for the Chechen cause. A Cypriot passenger plane was seized by Chechen sympathizers on March 6 as it flew into Germany. Both events were settled through discussions, and the hijackers surrendered without causing any casualties.

Continuation of the Russian Offensive

On March 6, between 1,500 and 2,000 Chechen fighters stormed Grozny and began a three-day surprise attack, taking control of much of the city and capturing weapons and ammunition dumps. Chechen fighters also invaded Samashki in March, killing hundreds of residents. A month later, on April 16, Arab commander Ibn al-forces Khattab's ambushed a big Russian armored column near Shatoy, killing at least 76 soldiers; another ambush occurred near Vedeno, killing at least 28 Russian troops.

As the war grew more unpopular in Russia as a result of military failures and rising casualties, Yeltsin's government sought a way out as the 1996 presidential elections approached. Despite the assassination of ChRI President Dzhokhar Dudayev by a Russian guided missile attack on April 21, 1996, rebels persisted. On May 28, 1996, Yeltsin announced "victory" in Grozny after signing a new temporary ceasefire with ChRI Acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. Military troops continued to conduct combat operations while political officials discussed the truce and peace efforts. On August 6, 1996, three days before Russian President Boris Yeltsin was to be sworn in for a second term and as most Russian Army troops were being moved south for what was to be their final offensive against remaining mountainous separatist strongholds, the Chechens launched yet another surprise attack on Grozny.

Third Battle of Grozny and the Khasavyurt Accord

Despite the presence of around 12,000 Russian forces in and around Grozny, more than 1,500 Chechen militants (whose numbers quickly grew) overran the main districts in an operation planned and conducted by Maskhadov (who dubbed it Operation Zero) and Basayev (who called it Operation Jihad). Separatists then surrounded Russian stations and outposts, as well as the government compound in the city center, and gathered up, arrested, and in some cases executed a number of Chechens suspected of being Russian collaborators. Russian forces in the cities of Argun and Gudermes were also surrounded in their garrisons at the same time. Several attempts by armored columns to rescue the beleaguered units in Grozny were thwarted, resulting in high Russian deaths (the 276th Motorized Regiment of 900 men suffered 50 percent casualties in a two-day attempt to reach the city centre). In five days of battle, more than 200 Russian soldiers were killed, almost 800 were injured, and an unknown number were missing, according to Russian military officials; Chechens put the number of Russian casualties at close to 1,000. Thousands of troops were either taken prisoner or besieged and mostly unarmed, with the separatists seizing their heavier weapons and ammunition.

Despite the presence of 50,000 to 200,000 Chechen civilians and thousands of federal military in Grozny on August 19, Russian commander Konstantin Pulikovsky issued a 48-hour deadline for Chechen combatants to leave the city or it would be destroyed in a huge aerial and artillery attack. He warned that federal forces will utilize strategic bombers and ballistic missiles, which have never been used in Chechnya before. Following this declaration, people attempted to evacuate before the army carried out its warning, with parts of the city burning and falling shells scattering refugee columns. On August 22, the shelling was halted by a truce arranged by General Alexander Lebed, Yeltsin's national security adviser. General Lebed referred to General Pulikovsky's (now-replaced) ultimatum as a "poor joke."

On August 31, 1996, after eight hours of talks, Lebed and Maskhadov developed and signed the Khasavyurt Accord. It included technical aspects of demilitarization, the withdrawal of both sides' forces from Grozny, the establishment of joint headquarters to prevent looting in the city, the withdrawal of all Russian federal forces from Chechnya by December 31, 1996, and a requirement that any agreement on relations between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian federal government be signed by late 2001.

Aftermath

Casualties

According to the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff, 3,826 personnel were killed, 17,892 were wounded, and 1,906 were reported missing in action. According to the respected Russian independent military weekly NVO, at least 5,362 Russian servicemen died in the battle, 52,000 were injured or became ill, and 3,000 more were still missing in 2005. The Committee of Russian Soldiers' Mothers, on the other hand, estimated the number of Russian military deaths to be 14,000, based on information from wounded troops and soldiers' relatives (counting only regular troops, i.e. not the kontraktniki and special service forces). The Human Rights Center "Memorial" has compiled a list of 4393 names of fallen servicemen. The official Russian number of troops remaining missing and presumed dead from the two Chechen conflicts was 700 in 2009, with roughly 400 bodies of the missing personnel said to have been recovered up to that point.
In Grozny, bodies were discovered on a lorry.

According to Tufts University's World Peace Foundation,

"The number of people murdered has been estimated to be anything from 20,000 and 100,000, with the latter figure being frequently used by Chechen sources. The number of civilian casualties is widely estimated to be 40,000 by scholars and human rights organizations; this figure is based on the study and scholarship of Chechnya expert John Dunlop, who estimates that the total number of civilian casualties is at least 35,000. This range is also consistent with the Russian statistics office's post-war estimates of 30,000 to 40,000 people killed. The number of civilian dead is estimated to be significantly higher at 50,000, according to Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights organization that aggressively documented human rights crimes throughout the war."

Anatoly Kulikov, Russia's interior minister, stated that fewer than 20,000 civilians were killed. Out of a population of 1,000,000, Médecins Sans Frontières projected a death toll of 50,000 persons. Sergey Kovalyov's team might provide a conservative estimate of more than 50,000 civilian casualties based on documentation. According to Alexander Lebed, between 80,000 and 100,000 people were murdered and 240,000 were injured. The official figure stated by the ChRI was around 100,000 people murdered.

According to accusations made by Sergey Govorukhin and published in the Russian daily Gazeta, Russian forces fighting in Chechnya killed about 35,000 ethnic Russian citizens, the majority of whom were killed during the bombardment of Grozny.

Between 50,000 and 100,000 Chechens are believed to be killed or missing, according to various estimations.

Prisoners and Missing Persons

Both sides agreed to a "all for all" prisoner exchange at the end of the war in the Khasavyurt Accord. Despite this vow, several people were nonetheless detained forcibly. According to a partial examination of the list of 1,432 reported missing Chechens, at least 139 Chechens were still being forcibly detained by the Russian side as of 30 October 1996; it was unknown how many of these men were alive. According to Human Rights Watch, the Chechens still held between 700 and 1,000 Russian soldiers and officers as prisoners of war as of mid-January 1997. According to Amnesty International, Chechen fighters abducted 1,058 Russian soldiers and commanders in the same month and offered them to Chechen armed organizations in exchange for their release. Andrew Shumack, an American freelance journalist, has been missing in Grozny, Chechnya, since July 1995 and is considered dead.

Moscow Peace Treaty

The Khasavyurt Accord set the groundwork for Russia and Chechnya to negotiate two other agreements. Yeltsin and Maskhadov reached an agreement on commercial cooperation and reparations to Chechens affected by the 1994–96 war in mid-November 1996. Russia also authorized an amnesty in February 1997 for Russian military and Chechen separatists who committed illegal activities during the Chechen War between December 1994 and September 1996.

On the 12th of May 1997, six months after the Khasavyurt Accord, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov traveled to Moscow, where he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a formal treaty "on peace and the principles of Russian-Chechen relations," which Maskhadov predicted would demolish "any basis for creating ill-feelings between Moscow and Grozny." Maskhadov's optimism, on the other hand, was mistaken. In the summer of 1999, some of Maskhadov's former comrades-in-arms, commanded by field commanders Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab, began an assault of Dagestan – and shortly after, Russia's military entered Chechnya again, starting the Second Chechen War.

Last updated: 2022-March-05
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