The Second Chechen War between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

The Second Chechen War between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

The Second Chechen War (also known as the Second Chechen Campaign or the Second Russian invasion of Chechnya from the rebel Chechen point of view) was an armed conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria that lasted from August 1999 to April 2000 in Chechnya and the border regions of the North Caucasus.

Chechen Islamist fighters stormed Russia's Dagestan region in August 1999, declaring it an independent state and called for holy war. During the first campaign, Russian military and pro-Russian Chechen paramilitary forces engaged Chechen insurgents in open warfare, seizing Grozny after a winter siege that lasted from December 1999 to February 2000. Although Chechen terrorist opposition throughout the North Caucasus region continued to inflict severe Russian fatalities and challenge Russian government control over Chechnya for several years, Russia gained direct administration over Chechnya in May 2000. Attacks on people were carried out by both sides. These attacks attracted widespread condemnation from around the world.

The Russian government delegated significant military responsibilities to pro-Russian Chechen troops in the mid-2000s. The military phase of the operation ended in April 2002, and field operations coordination was handed over to the Federal Security Service initially, and then to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the summer of 2003.

By 2009, Russia had weakened the Chechen separatist movement to the point where large-scale fighting had halted. Troops from the Russian army and interior ministry have stopped patrolling. Grozny underwent rebuilding, and much of the city and its environs were soon restored. Sporadic violence continued to erupt across the North Caucasus, with explosions and ambushes targeting federal troops and regional government forces in the region.

The government's operation in Chechnya came to an end in April 2009. Due to the withdrawal of the bulk of the army, the local police force was tasked with dealing with the low-level insurrection. Three months later, the separatist government's exiled commander, Akhmed Zakayev, called for an end to armed resistance against the Chechen police force beginning in August, saying he hoped that "from this day forward, Chechens would never shoot at each other." The conflict in Chechnya came to an end at this point.

The conflict's actual death toll is unknown. According to the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, Russian casualties are around 7,500 (official Russian casualty estimates) or around 14,000 (unofficial Russian casualty figures). Unofficial estimates claim that 25,000 to 50,000 people have died or gone missing, the majority of them are Chechen civilians.

Historical Basis of the Conflict

Russian Empire

Chechnya is a region in the Northern Caucasus that has battled foreign domination throughout history, including the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. In 1577, free Cossacks who had been resettled from the Volga to the Terek River founded the Russian Terek Cossack Host in lowland Chechnya. The Treaty of Georgievsk was signed in 1783 between Russia and the Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti, making Kartli-Kakheti a Russian protectorate. The Russian Empire began pushing its influence into the Caucasus region in 1817 in order to secure connectivity with Georgia and other Transcaucasia provinces. In 1830, Russian armies entered highland Chechnya, and the fight lasted until 1859, when a 250,000-strong army led by General Baryatinsky crushed the highlanders' resistance. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), there were numerous uprisings throughout the Caucasus.

Soviet Union

Chechens founded a short-lived Caucasian Imamate following the Russian Revolution of 1917, which covered sections of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, as well as the secular pan-Caucasian Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus. Both sides of the Russian Civil War opposed the Chechen nations, and by 1922, Bolshevik troops had defeated the most of the opposition. The Chechen Autonomous Oblast of the Russian SFSR was established a few months before the Soviet Union was founded. It took over part of the previous Terek Cossack Host's territory. The Chechen–Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was founded in 1936 by Chechnya and adjacent Ingushetia. A Chechen rebellion led by Khasan Israilov erupted in 1941, during World War II. Under the false pretense of Chechen mass collaboration with Nazi Germany, Chechens were transported to the Kazakh and Kirghiz SSRs in an act of ethnic cleansing in 1944. The extreme conditions killed about a quarter to a third of the Chechen population. Many academics, as well as the European Parliament in 2004, have recognized the expulsion as genocide. [44] [45][46] A memorial to the victims of the 1944 atrocities was created by the separatist administration in 1992. This memorial was later demolished by the pro-Russian regime. Tombstones from the memorial were discovered adjacent to granite steles commemorating the losses of local pro-Russian forces on the Akhmad Kadyrov Place.

First Chechen War

Chechnya declared independence in 1991, following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Chechen and Ingush officials signed an agreement in 1992 that divided the combined Chechen–Ingush republic into two parts, with Ingushetia joining the Russian Federation and Chechnya remaining autonomous. Since 1992, the argument over independence has resulted in a small-scale civil war in which Russians have secretly attempted to depose Dzhokhar Dudayev's administration. In 1994, Russian military entered Chechnya to restore constitutional order, starting the First Chechen War. The 1996 Khasavyurt ceasefire deal was concluded after nearly two years of terrible combat, with some estimates putting the dead toll at over 100,000. Russian soldiers were removed from the republic.

Prelude to the Second Chechen War

Chaos in Chechnya

The government's grip over the chaotic republic remained shaky after the first battle, especially outside of the devastated city of Grozny. Separatist-controlled territories rose in size, and the country became increasingly lawless. Because of the war's ravages and a lack of economic prospects, a huge number of heavily armed and brutalized former separatist fighters had no choice but to engage in more bloodshed. Extremist warlords such as Arbi Barayev, who according to some accounts was working with the FSB, challenged the government's authority in Grozny. Abductions and attacks by several Chechen warlords into other sections of the Northern Caucasus had been progressively growing. In the absence of a functioning economy, abduction became the country's primary source of revenue, bringing in more than $200 million during the nascent state's three years of independence. Between 1996 and 1999, up to 1,300 persons were kidnapped in Chechnya, with a group of four Western captives being murdered in 1998. The authorities in Grozny proclaimed a state of emergency in 1998. Tensions escalated to open battles, like as the one in Gudermes in July 1998, in which 50 people were killed in fighting between Chechen National Guard troops and Islamist groups.

Russian–Chechen relations 1996–1999

Political tensions were exacerbated by border conflicts and claimed Chechen or pro-Chechen terrorist and criminal activity in Russia. On November 16, 1996, a bomb detonated in Kaspiysk (Dagestan), killing 68 people and destroying an apartment complex housing Russian border guards. The cause of the explosion was never identified, but Chechen insurgents were widely accused in Russia. Three persons were killed when a bomb exploded in the Russian railway station of Armavir (Krasnodar Krai) on April 23, 1997, and two more were killed when a bomb exploded in the Russian railway station of Pyatigorsk on May 28, 1997. (Stavropol Krai). Dagestani militants and Chechen Arab warlord Ibn al-Khattab stormed the Russian Army's 136th Motor Rifle Brigade's base in Buynaksk, Dagestan, on December 22, 1997, causing serious losses.

Aslan Maskhadov, a separatist, was elected president of Kazakhstan in 1997. President Maskhadov was the target of several assassination attempts in 1998 and 1999, all of which were blamed on Russian security services. General Gennady Shpigun, the Kremlin's envoy to Chechnya, was kidnapped at the Grozny airport in March 1999 and later found dead during the war in 2000. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin called for an invasion of Chechnya on March 7, 1999, in response to the kidnapping of General Shpigun. Stepashin's scheme, however, was thwarted by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Later, Stepashin stated:

"In March 1999, the decision to attack Chechnya was taken... I was ready for a hands-on approach. By August–September [of 1999], we hoped to be on the Terek River's north bank. Regardless of the explosions in Moscow, this [the war] would occur... Putin did not make any new discoveries. You can inquire about it with him. At the time, he was the director of the FSB and had access to all of the material."

These plans, according to Robert Bruce Ware, should be considered contingency plans. When he was Russia's prime minister in August 1999, Stepashin did openly urge for a military attack against Chechen separatists. He was ousted as Prime Minister by Vladimir Putin immediately after his broadcast appearance in which he discussed efforts to restore constitutional order in Chechnya.

Russia declared the closure of the Russian-Chechnya border in late May 1999 in an effort to prevent attacks and criminal activities; border guards were told to shoot offenders on sight. When Russian border guard installations in Dagestan were attacked on June 18, 1999, seven personnel were murdered. Russian Interior Ministry troops destroyed a Chechen border station and captured an 800-meter stretch of critical route on July 29, 1999. Ten Russian police officers were murdered by an anti-tank mine burst in North Ossetia on August 22, 1999, while six servicemen were kidnapped in the Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz on August 9, 1999.

Invasion of Dagestan

The Second Chechen War began with the invasion of Dagestan. On August 7, 1999, Shamil Basayev led two armies of up to 2,000 Chechen, Dagestani, Arab, and international mujahideen and Wahhabist militants from Chechnya into the adjacent Republic of Dagestan (in collaboration with the Saudi-born Ibn al-Khattab, Commander of the Mujahedeen). The first (unconfirmed) use of aerially delivered fuel air explosives (FAE) in mountainous locations occurred during this battle, particularly in the village of Tando. The insurgents were ousted from the settlements they had taken and pushed back into Chechnya by mid-September 1999. Hundreds of militants were killed in the conflict, while the Federal side reported 275 personnel dead and 900 injured.

Bombings in Russia

A series of bombings occurred in Russia (in Moscow and Volgodonsk) and in the Dagestani town of Buynaksk before the aftermath of the Dagestani invasion had settled. On September 4, 1999, 62 persons were killed in an apartment complex housing Russian soldier's families. The bombs struck three more apartment buildings and a mall during the next two weeks, killing nearly 350 people. In 2002, a criminal inquiry into the bombings was finished. The inquiry found that they were arranged by Achemez Gochiyaev, who is still at large, and ordered by Khattab and Abu Omar al-Saif (both of whom were later slain), in retribution for the Russian counteroffensive against their incursion into Dagestan. Russian courts have found six additional accused guilty. Local police arrested Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives for planting one of the devices, but they were eventually released on Moscow's orders. Many observers, including State Duma deputies Yuri Shchekochikhin, Sergei Kovalev, and Sergei Yushenkov, questioned the official story and demanded an independent probe. Others, including David Satter, Yury Felshtinsky, Vladimir Pribylovsky, and Alexander Litvinenko, as well as secessionist Chechen authorities, claimed that the 1999 bombings were a false flag operation orchestrated by the FSB to gain public support for a new full-scale war in Chechnya, which boosted Prime Minister and former FSB Director Vladimir Putin's popularity, helped the pro-war Unity Party win seats in the State Duma in the

1999–2000 Russian Offensive

Air War

Russia launched a huge aviation operation over Chechnya in late August and early September 1999, ostensibly to wipe out militants who had invaded Dagestan earlier that month. Russia acknowledged bombing attacks in Chechnya on August 26, 1999. At least 100,000 Chechens are said to have fled their homes to safety as a result of Russian air attacks, and the neighboring territory of Ingushetia has requested UN assistance to deal with tens of thousands of refugees. On October 2, 1999, Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations claimed that 78,000 people had escaped Chechnya's air attacks; the majority of them had fled to Ingushetia, where they arrived at a rate of 5,000 to 6,000 people per day.

Russian troops had surrounded Chechnya and were ready to reclaim the territory as of September 22, 1999, according to Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov, but military planners advised against a land invasion due to the possibility of severe Russian losses.

Land War

On October 1, 1999, Russia's new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and his parliament unconstitutional, ushering in a new phase of the conflict. [requires citation] Putin declared at the time that Russian soldiers would launch a ground invasion but would only go as far as the Terek River, which separates Chechnya's northern third from the rest of the republic. Putin's stated goal was to seize control of Chechnya's northern plain and build a cordon sanitaire to deter further Chechen aggression; but, due to Chechnya's rough terrain, he later admitted that the barrier alone was "pointless and technically impossible." Putin hastened a plan for a significant crackdown against Chechnya that had been sketched up months before, according to Russian reports.

The Russian troops proceeded easily across northern Chechnya's large open expanses, reaching the Terek River on October 5, 1999. A bus carrying refugees was hit by a Russian tank shell on this day, killing at least 11 civilians; two days later, Russian Su-24 fighter bombers dropped cluster bombs on the town of Elistanzhi, killing at least 35 people. On October 10, 1999, Maskhadov offered a peace plan that included a crackdown on renegade warlords; however, the Russian side rejected the offer. He also made an ineffective appeal to NATO to assist in ending the combat between his soldiers and Russian troops.

On October 12, 1999, Russian forces crossed the Terek and launched a two-pronged assault on Grozny, the capital to the south. In an attempt to minimize the high losses that afflicted the first Chechen War, the Russians attacked cautiously and forcefully, relying heavily on artillery and air power to weaken Chechen defenses. Thousands of residents evacuated Chechnya for neighboring Russian republics as the Russian advance continued. Out of the approximately 800,000 residents of the Chechen Republic, their numbers were eventually believed to be between 200,000 and 350,000. In October, the Russians constructed up "filtration camps" in northern Chechnya to imprison suspected members of bandformirovaniya terrorist groups, indicating that they were taking no chances with the Chechen population in their back territories (literally: "bandit formations").

After waging a heavy tank and artillery assault on Chechen rebels, Russian forces captured control of a vital ridge within artillery range of the Chechen capital Grozny on October 15, 1999. President Maskhadov retaliated by declaring a gazavat (holy war) against the approaching Russian army. In Ichkeria, martial law was declared and reservists were summoned, but the Russian government had not declared martial law or a state of emergency in Chechnya or Russia. The next day, Russian forces dislodged 200 entrenched Chechen fighters from the key Tersky Heights, which are within sight of Grozny. Russia conquered the Chechen outpost in the village of Goragorsky, west of the city, after intense battle.

A Russian Scud short-range ballistic missile strike on the downtown Grozny marketplace on October 21, 1999, killed about 140 people, including many women and children, and injured hundreds more. According to a Russian official, the crowded market was targeted because insurgents utilized it as an arms bazaar. Eight days later, Russian planes launched a rocket attack on a big refugee caravan traveling into Ingushetia, killing at least 25 civilians, including Red Cross workers and journalists. Two days later, Russian forces attacked Samashki with heavy artillery and rockets; others speculated that people were slain in Samashki in retaliation for Russian forces' terrible fatalities there during the first conflict.

When the local Chechen commanders, the Yamadayev brothers, defected to the federal side on November 12, 1999, the Russian flag was flown over Gudermes, Chechnya's second largest city; the Russians also invaded the bombed-out former Cossack settlement of Assinovskaya. Fighting raged in and around Kulary until January 2000. Russian army removed separatists in Bamut, the iconic separatist stronghold in the first conflict, on November 17, 1999; scores of Chechen fighters and numerous civilians were reported killed, and the settlement was leveled in the FAE bombing. After a failed attempt five days prior, Russian forces were able to take the town of Achkhoy-Martan two days later.

On November 26, 1999, Deputy Army Chief of Staff Valery Manilov announced that phase two of the Chechnya campaign was nearly complete, with a final third phase set to commence. The goal of the third phase, according to Manilov, was to eliminate "bandit groups" in the mountains. A few days later, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev indicated that the military campaign in Chechnya may take up to three months longer, although some generals suggested the offensive could be done by New Year's Day. The Chechens briefly regained Novogroznensky the following day.

After weeks of fierce battle, Russian forces led by Major General Vladimir Shamanov took control of Alkhan-Yurt, a village south of Grozny, on December 1, 1999. Chechen and foreign rebels reportedly killed more than 70 Russian soldiers before retiring, taking serious losses themselves. Chechen separatist fighters launched a series of counter-attacks against federal troops in several villages and on the outskirts of Gudermes on the same day. Since the start of Moscow's military onslaught, Chechen fighters in Argun, a small village five kilometers east of Grozny, have put up some of the most tenacious resistance to federal soldiers. [requires citation] Separatists in Urus-Martan also put up a fight, utilizing guerilla tactics that Russia had hoped to avoid; on December 9, 1999, Russian forces were still bombarding Urus-Martan, although Chechen commanders claiming their fighters had already withdrawn.

General Viktor Kazantsev, the commander of Russian forces in the North Caucasus, announced on December 4, 1999 that Grozny was completely blockaded by Russian soldiers. The Russian military's next mission was to take control of Shali, a town 20 kilometers south of the capital and one of the few remaining separatist-held towns outside from Grozny. Russian troops began by taking two bridges that connect Shali to the capital, and by the 11th of December 1999, they had encircled Shali and were gradually driving separatists out. By mid-December, the Russian military had focused its attacks in southern Chechnya and was planning a new onslaught from Dagestan.

Siege of Grozny

Early in December, Russia launched an assault on Grozny, which was backed by a battle for nearby villages. The conflict ended on February 2, 2000, when the Russian army took the city. At least 134 federal troops and an unknown number of pro-Russian militias died in Grozny, according to official Russian data. Separatist troops also sustained serious losses, with several key commanders among them. According to Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, 2,700 separatists were killed while attempting to flee Grozny. Separatists claim to have lost at least 500 fighters in the Alkhan-Kala minefield.

The siege and battle wreaked havoc on the capital, as they had on no other European city since WWII. Grozny was named the world's most damaged city by the United Nations in 2003.

As they proceeded elsewhere, as well as from Chechen counterattacks and convoy ambushes, the Russians incurred tremendous fatalities. The Russian government declared on January 26, 2000, that 1,173 servicemen had been killed in Chechnya since October, more than double the 544 dead just 19 days before.

Battle for the Mountains

Heavy battle, followed by huge shelling and bombing, occurred in the mountainous south of Chechnya throughout the winter of 2000, particularly in the hills near Argun, Vedeno, and Shatoy, where Russian paratroopers had been fighting since 1999.

On February 9, 2000, a Russian tactical missile struck a throng of people waiting to collect their pensions at the local administration building in Shali, a town previously designated as a "safe region." A report that a number of fighters had entered the town prompted the attack. The missile is thought to have killed 150 civilians, and it was followed by a combat helicopter raid, which resulted in more casualties. Concerned about the significant number of civilian casualties caused by what it described "widespread and frequently indiscriminate bombing and shelling by Russian forces," Human Rights Watch called on the Russian military to stop deploying FAE, also known as "vacuum bombs" in Chechnya. A Russian army transport helicopter was shot down in the south on February 18, 2000, killing 15 personnel on board, according to Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, in a rare admission of war losses by Moscow.

Gennady Troshev, commander of the United Army Group, stated on February 29, 2000 that "Chechnya's counter-terrorist operation is now complete. Picking up splinter groups will now take a few weeks longer." The rebels' numerical strength, according to Russia's Defense Minister, Marshal of the Russian Federation Igor Sergeyev, is between 2,000 and 2,500 troops, "scattered all throughout Chechnya." On the same day, a Russian VDV paratrooper company from Pskov was attacked by Chechen and Arab militants near the village of Ulus-Kert in Chechnya's southern lowlands, resulting in the deaths of at least 84 Russian soldiers. [requires citation] According to the Russian Ministry of Defense's official journal, at least 659 rebels were killed, including 200 from the Middle East, citing radio intercept data, intelligence reports, eyewitnesses, local people, and detained Chechens as sources. On March 2, 2000, an OMON unit from Podolsk opened fire on a unit from Sergiyev Posad in Grozny, killing at least 24 Russian soldiers.

In March, a large group of over 1,000 Chechen fighters, led by field commander Ruslan Gelayev, entered the Chechen foothills village of Komsomolskoye and held off a full-scale Russian attack for over two weeks; they suffered hundreds of casualties, while the Russians admitted to more than 50 killed. On March 29, 2000, a rebel ambush on an OMON convoy from Perm near Zhani-Vedeno killed around 23 Russian soldiers.

According to General Troshev, an estimated 80 to 100 "bandits" ambushed a 22-vehicle convoy transporting ammunition and other supplies to an airborne battalion near Serzhen-Yurt in the Vedeno Gorge on April 23, 2000. According to the Russian defense minister, the federal side lost 15 soldiers in the ensuing four-hour battle. The bodies of four rebel fighters were discovered, according to General Troshev. According to the Russian Airborne Troops command, 20 insurgents were killed and two were taken prisoner. The final populous centers of the organized resistance were quickly overrun by Russian soldiers. (In December 2000, Russian soldiers started a new onslaught against the last mountain positions.)

Restoration of Federal Government

In May 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin imposed direct administration over Chechnya. Putin nominated Akhmad Kadyrov as provisional head of the pro-Moscow cabinet the following month. The rest of Russia first welcomed this breakthrough, but the continuing casualties of Russian troops dimmed public excitement. A referendum on a new Chechen constitution was held on March 23, 2003. The 2003 Constitution, which went into effect on April 2, 2003, gave the Chechen Republic a large degree of autonomy while yet tying it firmly to Russia and Moscow's leadership. The referendum was highly supported by the Russian government, but it was met with scathing criticism by Chechen rebels, prompting many citizens to abstain from voting. In 2004, a bomb blast assassinated Akhmad Kadyrov. Ramzan Kadyrov, the commander of the pro-Moscow militia known as kadyrovtsy, has been the de facto ruler of Chechnya since December 2005. Kadyrov has risen to become Chechnya's most prominent leader, and in February 2007, with Putin's assistance, Ramzan Kadyrov took over as president from Alu Alkhanov.

Insurgency

Guerrilla War in Chechnya

Despite the cessation of large-scale fighting within Chechnya, daily attacks persisted, mainly in the southern parts of the republic and spilling over into surrounding Caucasus territories, especially after the establishment of the Caucasus Front. Small separatist groups typically targeted Russian and pro-Russian leaders, security forces, military and police convoys, and cars. IEDs were used by separatist troops, which were occasionally combined for larger operations. Artillery and air strikes, as well as counter-insurgency operations, were used by Russian forces in retaliation. In contrast to prior conscripts, the majority of soldiers in Chechnya were kontraktniki (contract soldiers). While Russia's military presence in Chechnya was maintained, federal forces played a less direct role. Law enforcement and security activities were dominated by pro-Kremlin Chechen forces led by local strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, known as the kadyrovtsy, with many members (including Kadyrov himself) being former Chechen separatists who had defected since 1999. The Kadyrovtsy have been divided into two Interior Ministry sections, North and South, since 2004. (Sever and Yug). Sulim Yamadayev (Vostok) and Said-Magomed Kakiyev (Zapad) led two more Chechen pro-Moscow army groups, East and West (Vostok and Zapad), respectively.

On April 16, 2009, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service, claimed that Russia had finished its "anti-terror operation" in Chechnya, stating that the territory had been stabilized. "The decision aims to create the circumstances for the republic's future normalization, rehabilitation, and socioeconomic development," Bortnikov said. While Chechnya had largely stabilized, militant battles continued in the surrounding Dagestan and Ingushetia provinces.

Suicide Attacks

Between June 2000 and September 2004, Chechen insurgents added suicide attacks to their tactics. During this period, there were 23 Chechen-related suicide attacks in and outside Chechnya, notably the hostage taking at an elementary school in Beslan, in which at least 334 people died.

Assassinations

Both sides of the war carried out multiple assassinations. The most prominent of these included the 13 February 2004 killing of exiled former separatist Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar, and the 9 May 2004 killing of pro-Russian Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov during a parade in Grozny.

Caucasus Front

While anti-Russian local insurgencies in the North Caucasus predate the conflict, Chechen separatists officially proclaimed the formation of the Caucasus Front in May 2005, two months after Maskahdov's murder, with the goal of "reforming the military–political power system." The Stavropol, Kabardin-Balkar, Krasnodar, Karachai-Circassian, Ossetian, and Adyghe jamaats were included with the Chechen, Dagestani, and Ingush "sectors." As a result, virtually every region in Russia's south was involved in the fighting.

The Chechen separatist movement assumed a new position as the insurgency's official ideological, logistical, and, most likely, financial hub in the North Caucasus. In Dagestan, occasional fighting erupted between federal forces and local militants, while sporadic fighting erupted in other southern Russia regions, including as Ingushetia, and particularly in Nalchik on October 13, 2005.

Human Rights and Terrorism

Russian officials and Chechen separatists have accused the other side of war crimes such as kidnapping, murder, hostage snatching, looting, rape, and a variety of other violations of the rules of war on several occasions. Both sides of the war have been denounced by international and humanitarian organizations, including the Council of Europe and Amnesty International, for "blatant and prolonged" violations of international humanitarian law.

Since 1999, according to Western European human rights organizations, there have been around 5,000 forced disappearances in Chechnya.

In an address to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on March 24, 2000, American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said:

"Thousands of Chechen civilians have died, and over 200,000 have been displaced from their homes, and we cannot ignore this. We have raised our concern, along with other delegations, about recurrent, reliable accusations of human rights violations by Russian authorities in Chechnya, including extrajudicial killings. There are also allegations that Chechen rebels have perpetrated human rights violations, including the murder of civilians and detainees.... Russia's international reputation has been severely harmed by the war in Chechnya, which is isolating Russia from the world community. The most immediate and significant task Russia confronts is repairing the harm it has caused both at home and abroad, or risking deeper isolation."

According to Amnesty International's annual report from 2001:

"Russian soldiers indiscriminately bombed and bombarded civilian locations, according to accounts. Russian forces continued to launch military attacks against Chechen civilians, including medical staff. Hundreds of Chechen civilians and POWs were executed without due process. Journalists and independent monitors were still denied entry into Chechnya. Chechen fighters reportedly intimidated and killed members of the Russian-appointed civilian administration, as well as executed Russian captured soldiers, according to accounts."

The Russian government has failed to hold anyone accountable for human rights violations committed in Chechnya during the conflict. Hundreds of victims of abuse have filed claims with the European Court of Human Rights after being unable to obtain justice at home (ECHR). The court's first findings on Chechnya were announced in March 2005, holding the Russian government guilty of infringing the right to life and even the prohibition of torture in the case of civilians who died or were forcibly disappeared at the hands of Russian federal troops. Since then, Russia has been found guilty of a slew of similar charges.

Since the start of the First Chechen War in 1994, dozens of mass graves comprising hundreds of bodies have been discovered. In Chechnya, there were 57 registered mass grave sites as of June 2008. Thousands of people may be buried in unmarked graves, according to Amnesty International, including up to 5,000 civilians who have gone missing since the Second Chechen War began in 1999. In Grozny, the largest mass grave discovered to date, with 800 victims from the First Chechen War in 1995, was discovered in 2008. The Chechen mass graves are not exhumed as part of Russia's general policy.

Between May 2002 and September 2004, Chechen and Chechen-led militants, largely under the command of Shamil Basayev, waged a terrorist campaign in Russia targeting civilian targets. A total of 200 individuals were killed in a series of explosions (the majority of which were suicide attacks), the majority of whom were killed in the 2003 Stavropol train bombing (46), the 2004 Moscow metro bombing (40), and the 2004 Russian plane bombings (89).

The 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis and the 2004 Beslan school siege both resulted in the deaths of a large number of civilians. On the third day of the Moscow standoff, FSB Spetsnaz forces assaulted the building, employing an unknown incapacitating chemical substance that proved fatal without adequate medical care, killing 133 of the 916 hostages. Before the assault in Beslan, 20 hostages had been executed by their captors, and the ill-prepared assault (which began hastily after explosions in a gym that had been rigged with explosives by the terrorists) resulted in 294 more casualties among the 1128 hostages, as well as significant losses among the special forces.

Other Issues

Pankisi Crisis

Russian officials have accused Georgia of allowing Chechen separatists to operate on Georgian soil and allowing militants and materiel to slip across the Georgian-Russian border. As part of the War on Terrorism, the US began assisting Georgia in combatting "criminal elements" as well as alleged Arab mujahideen activity in Pankisi Gorge in February 2002. Georgian troops apprehended an Arab guy and six criminals without resistance and declared the region under control. Georgia accused Russia of a series of secret air raids on suspected rebel havens in the Pankisi Gorge in August 2002, one of which resulted in the death of a Georgian civilian.

A UNOMIG helicopter was shot down in the Kodori Valley gorge near Abkhazia on October 8, 2001, during conflict between Chechens and Abkhazians, killing nine people, including five UN observers. Georgia denied having troops in the area, and the armed organization led by Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev, who was suspected of being hired by the Georgian government to wage a proxy war against separatist Abkhazia, was blamed. On March 2, 2004, while attempting to return from Dagestan to Georgia after a series of cross-border assaults from Georgia into Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan, Gelayev was murdered in a battle with Russian border guards.

Unilateral Ceasefire of 2005

On February 2, 2005, Chechen separatist president Aslan Maskhadov called for a ceasefire that would endure until at least February 22 (the day of Stalin's expulsion of the Chechen population). The call, which was made through a separatist website and addressed to President Putin as a gesture of goodwill, was defined as such. Maskhadov was assassinated by Russian security forces in the Chechen town of Tolstoy-Yurt, northeast of Grozny, on March 8, 2005.

The Chechen separatist council claimed shortly after Maskhadov's death that Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev had taken over as leader, a decision soon backed by Shamil Basayev (Basayev himself died in July 2006). Sadulayev overhauled his administration on February 2, 2006, ordering all of its members to relocate to Chechen territory. He ousted First Vice-Premier Akhmed Zakayev from his position, among other things (although later Zakayev was appointed a Foreign Minister). Sadulayev was assassinated in June 2006, and seasoned terrorist commander Doku Umarov took over as rebel leader.

Amnesties

Since the beginning of the second conflict in Chechnya, Moscow has announced at least seven amnesties for separatist militants as well as federal personnel who committed crimes. The first occurred in 1999, when approximately 400 Chechens switched sides. (However, according to Aslambek Aslakhanov, Putin's counselor and aide, the majority of them have since been assassinated, both by their former comrades and by the Russians, who saw them as a potential "fifth column" at the time.) Other amnesties included one in September 2003 in connection with the republic's new constitution's promulgation, and another between mid-2006 and January 2007. By 2005, more than 7,000 separatist fighters had defected to the federal side ("returned to the peaceful life"), according to Ramzan Kadyrov, a former separatist himself. In response to a six-month amnesty "for those not implicated in any significant crimes," about 600 militants in Chechnya and neighboring districts reportedly surrendered their weaponry in 2006. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights produced a report in 2007 called Amnestied People as Targets for Persecution in Chechnya, which details the fate of a number of people who were amnestied and then abducted, tortured, and executed.

Government Censorship of the Media Coverage

With its extensive and largely unrestricted coverage (despite the deaths of many journalists), the first war convinced the Kremlin more than any other event that it needed to control national television channels, which most Russians rely on for news, to successfully carry out any major national policy. Federal authorities had created and implemented a thorough system to control journalists' access to Chechnya and shape their coverage by the time the second war began.

The Russian government's ownership of all Russian television stations, as well as its use of repressive laws, harassment, censorship, intimidation, and attacks on journalists, effectively deprived the Russian population of independent information about the conflict. The pro-Moscow government has complete control over the local Chechen media; Russian journalists in Chechnya experience extreme harassment and obstruction, leading to extensive self-censorship; and foreign journalists and media outlets are also pressed to suppress their reports on the conflict. In rare occasions, Russian journalists covering Chechnya have been imprisoned (Boris Stomakhin) or kidnapped (Andrei Babitsky), and international media outlets have been barred from entering Russia (American Broadcasting Company). Russia took the action in retribution for ABC's airing of an interview with Shamil Basayev, the Chechen rebel leader who planned and/or carried out some of the country's deadliest terrorist crimes, including the 330-person school siege in Beslan. On grounds of "extremism and national hatred," the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society was shut down. Only 11% of Russians stated they were satisfied with media coverage of Chechnya in a 2007 poll.

Effects

Civilian losses

Over 60,000 fighters and non-combatants were killed in the Second Chechen War. Estimates of civilian casualties vary widely. According to the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, 160,000 fighters and non-combatants killed or went missing in the two wars, including 30,000–40,000 Chechens and 100,000 Russians; rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov (dead) stated that 200,000 ethnic Chechens died as a result of the two conflicts. These assertions, like those concerning military casualties, cannot be independently verified. Since 1999, up to 25,000 individuals have killed or disappeared, according to a count by the Russian human rights organization Memorial in 2007. According to Amnesty International, the second war has killed up to 25,000 civilians and left up to 5,000 persons missing since 1999. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, on the other hand, put the entire civilian death toll in the two conflicts at around 150,000 to 200,000.

Environmental damage

Environmental groups warn that the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya is now facing ecological calamity. Chechnya, according to a former assistant to Boris Yeltsin, has become a "environmental wasteland" as a result of Russian bombing. There is particular concern about extensive oil spills and pollution from war-damaged sewers (the water has been contaminated to a depth of 250 meters), as well as chemical and radioactive pollution as a result of the conflict's assault of chemical factories and storages. Chechnya's wildlife has also suffered significant harm as a result of the fighting, with creatures that once inhabited the Chechen forests fleeing to safer ground. In 2004, the Russian government declared one-third of Chechnya a "ecological disaster zone" and the remaining 40% a "severe environmental distress zone."

Land Mines

Chechnya is the most land mine-affected region worldwide. Since 1994 there have been widespread use of mines, by both sides (Russia is a party to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons but not the 1996 protocol on land mines and other devices). The most heavily mined areas of Chechnya are those in which separatists continue to put up resistance, namely the southern regions, as well as the borders of the republic. No humanitarian mine clearance has taken place since the HALO Trust was evicted by Russia in December 1999. In June 2002, Olara Otunnu, the UN official, estimated that there were 500,000 land mines placed in the region. UNICEF has recorded 2,340 civilian land mine and unexploded ordnance casualties occurring in Chechnya between 1999 and the end of 2003.

Military Losses

Military casualty figures from both sides are impossible to verify and are generally believed to be higher. In September 2000, the National Endowment for Democracy compiled the list of casualties officially announced in the first year of the conflict, which, although incomplete and with little factual value, provide a minimum insight in the information war. According to the figures released by the Russian Ministry of Defence on in August 2005, at least 1,250 Russian Armed Forces soldiers have been killed in action 1999–2005. This death toll did not include losses of Internal Troops, the FSB, police and local paramilitaries, of whom all at least 1,720 were killed by October 2003. The independent Russian and Western estimates are much higher; the Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia for instance estimated about 2,000 Russian Army servicemen have been killed between 1999 and 2003.

Political Radicalization of the Separatist Movement

The Chechens were becoming more radicalized. Former Soviet Armed Forces officers Dzhokhar Dudayev and Aslan Maskhadov have been replaced by those who are more reliant on Islamist sentiments than on the population's secular nationalistic aspirations. While Dudayev and Maskhadov lobbied Moscow for recognition of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria's independence, other leaders emphasized the need to evict Russia from the entire North Caucasus, a poor mountain region populated primarily by Muslim, non-Russian ethnic groups.

When asked in April 2006 if talks with Russians were conceivable, leading separatist commander Doku Umarov replied: "We made numerous offers to them. However, it has come to light that we constantly press for negotiations, as if we are always standing with an outstretched hand, which is interpreted as a sign of weakness. As a result, we no longer intend to do so." In the same month, Movladi Udugov, a new separatist spokesman, warned that attacks may occur anywhere in Russia: "Today, we face a different challenge: total war, or war anywhere our adversary can be reached. (...) And that means launching strikes across the country, not only in the Caucasus." Udugov stated that the Chechen-led militants' goal was no longer Western-style democracy and independence, but the Islamist "North Caucasian Emirate," reflecting the militants' rising extremism. [requires citation]
The Caucasian Emirate's flag

This movement culminated in Doku Umarov's declaration of the Caucasus Emirate in October 2007, in which he also called for a global Jihad, as well as a political rift between moderates and radical Islamists fighting in Chechnya and neighboring territories with Middle Eastern ties. Some commanders, such as Anzor Astemirov, who are still fighting alongside Doku Umarov, have publicly condemned the idea of a worldwide Jihad, but continue to fight for the independence of Caucasus republics.

Despite this, the movement has gained support from Muslim supporters all across the world, with some even willing to take up arms. Many experts believe Chechen fighters are likely to have ties to international Islamist separatist organisations. "It has been known for years that Muslim volunteers have flown to Chechnya to join the fight, reportedly after attending training camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan," the BBC wrote in an online Q&A on the conflict. Some have linked Chechen opposition to Russia to al-worldwide Qaida's jihad movement, dating back to the post-9/11 period. The number of foreign jihadists in Chechnya, on the other hand, was in the hundreds. Prior to September 11, most Western observers were skeptical of the Russian government's claims of al-Qaida ties. Until September 11th, the Clinton and Bush administrations, as well as other NATO nations, rejected Moscow's rhetoric about Chechens in Afghanistan and Afghans in Chechnya as Soviet-style "agitprop" (agitation-propaganda).

The trend of Islamic radicalization has had an impact on the international support for the Chechen separatist cause. The Tsarnaev brothers carried out a suicide assault in Boston in 2013, claiming jihad and accusing the US of killing Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. This undermined Russian sympathy for Chechen resistance and fueled xenophobia towards Chechens and Muslims in the US. Rampant Islamic terrorism in Europe, as well as the Chechens' exclusive role in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, most notably Abu Omar al-Shishani, has put the Chechen separatist movement in jeopardy, owing to rising anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe, including in some European countries that supported Chechens during and after conflicts with Russia, such as Poland.

Impact on the Chechen Population

"The majority of Chechens still struggle through lives beset by fear, uncertainty, and poverty," according to a 2006 report by Médecins Sans Frontières. According to a poll done by MSF in September 2005, 77 percent of respondents had "discernible symptoms of psychological discomfort."

The newborn mortality rate in Russia was 17 per 1,000 in 2008, the highest in the world; there have been indications of an increase in genetic problems in neonates and unexplained illnesses among schoolchildren. One out of every ten children is born with a congenital abnormality that requires therapy. Some children whose parents can afford it are taken to Dagestan, a neighboring republic where treatment is better; Chechnya's medical institutions lack adequate medical equipment. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 25,000 children in Chechnya have lost one or both parents between 1994 and 2008. Chechen youngsters as a whole are displaying signs of psychological stress. Chechen children had become "living specimens" of what it means to grow up under the continual fear of violence and chronic poverty, according to Chechnya's pro-Moscow deputy health minister in 2006. The Chechen interior ministry recognized 1,000 vagrant street children in 2007, and the number was growing.

Chechnya's unemployment rate was 32.9 percent in August 2009, according to official statistics. By 2017, the percentage has dropped to 13.9 percent. Many individuals remain homeless as a result of the Russian federal forces' destruction of much of Chechnya's housing, and many victims have yet to get compensation. Over the course of the two Chechen wars, not only the social (such as homes and hospitals) and economic infrastructure, but also the foundations of culture and education, including the majority of educational and cultural institutions, were destroyed. However, over the last few years, continuous reconstruction operations have been rapidly rebuilding the region, including new houses, amenities, paved roads and traffic signals, a new mosque, and the restoration of electricity to much of the neighborhood. Bribery, kidnapping, extortion, and other criminal activity continue to impede political, social, and commercial life; studies by the Russian government indicate that the organized crime sector is double the Russian average, and the government is commonly viewed as corrupt and sluggish.

Hundreds of thousands of Chechens have been displaced as a result of the fighting, including 300,000 at its peak in 2000. The majority of them were internally displaced in Chechnya and the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, but thousands of refugees were also forced into exile, with the majority of them staying in European Union nations as of 2008.

Impact on the Russian Population

The start of the conflict boosted Vladimir Putin's domestic popularity, as the campaign began one month after he became Russian Prime Minister. The battle played a significant role in the profound changes in Russian politics and society.

Since the beginning of the Chechen conflict in 1994, examples of young veterans returning home disillusioned and devastated have been documented all over Russia. Psychiatrists, law enforcement authorities, and media have coined the term "Chechen syndrome" (CS) to describe the mentally wounded soldiers' state, drawing a similarity with the post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by Soviet soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. In 2003, Yuri Alexandrovsky, deputy head of the Moscow Serbsky Institute, claimed that at least 70% of the estimated 1.5 million Chechen veterans had CS. Many of the veterans returned to society as alcoholics, jobless, and antisocial. Thousands of people were left physically crippled for the rest of their lives, with little aid from the government.

According to a 2007 report by the human rights organizations Memorial and Demos, Russian police officers lose their certifications and professional skills while serving in Chechnya. This dispute was linked to the Russian police force's increasing harshness and overall criminalization. Human rights groups and journalists claim that tens of thousands of police and security personnel who visited Chechnya learnt patterns of brutality and impunity and took them back to their home regions, frequently with disciplinary and psychological issues. Although reliable statistics on police brutality are difficult to come by, the Russian Interior Ministry's internal affairs department stated in a statement made in 2006 that the number of documented offenses perpetrated by police officers increased 46.8% in 2005. In a 2005 national poll, 71% of respondents stated they had little faith in the police, while 41% of Russians indicated they were afraid of police aggression. According to Amnesty International, detainee torture has become widespread in Russia. Since 2007, police officers from outside the Caucasus have been dispatched to all of the region's republics, not just Chechnya.

The Chechen conflicts, as well as allied Caucasian terrorism in Russia, were a major influence in the rise of intolerance, xenophobia, and racist violence in Russia, which was mostly focused against Caucasians. Random attacks against people of non-Russian origin were unlikely to be labeled racist by Russian authorities, who preferred to refer to it as "hooliganism." Between 2003 and 2004, the number of official racist murders in Russia more than doubled. Terrorist activities such as the bombing of a Moscow market in 2006, which killed 13 people, were among the acts of violence. In 2007, Artur Ryno, then 18 years old, claimed responsibility for 37 racially motivated murders over the course of a year, claiming that "he despised Caucasians since school." On June 5, 2007, hundreds of people participated in an anti-Chechen riot in the Russian town of Stavropol. Following the murder of two young Russians, which locals think were killed by Chechens, rioters demanded that ethnic Chechens be evicted. The incident brought back memories of a recent battle in Kondopoga between Chechens and local Russians over an unpaid debt, in which two Russians were killed. In the Russian Army, ethnic violence against Caucasians is also a problem.

Status

In 2005, roughly 60,000 Federal troops were stationed in Chechnya, although that number has dropped dramatically since then. As of 2007, Tony Wood, a writer and novelist who has written extensively about Chechnya, estimated that the region had roughly 8,000 local security officers. According to independent analysts, there are only about 2,000 armed terrorist combatants left, but Russia claims there are just a few hundred. There is still some intermittent fighting in the republic's mountains and south, but Russia has greatly reduced its involvement, leaving the local administration to further settle matters. Dokka Umarov, the president of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, boasted of "thousands of fighters" in a speech to all of his fighters in the mountains in February 2008.

Former President Aslan Maskhadov and main warlord and terrorist attack mastermind Shamil Basayev are among the most prominent prior Chechen separatist leaders who have died or been killed. Meanwhile, the Chechen independence movement's prospects sank, hampered by internal divisions between Chechen moderates and Islamist radicals, as well as the changing global political atmosphere following September 11, 2001, and the Chechen population's overall war fatigue. Guerrilla warfare and explosions targeting federal soldiers and regional government forces have replaced large-scale conflict, with violence frequently spilling over into neighboring regions. Since 2005, the insurgency has mainly moved out of Chechnya and into neighbouring Russian territories such as Ingushetia and Dagestan, while the Russian government has focused on North Caucasus stabilization.

Russian leaders have often declared the war to be concluded over the years. President Vladimir Putin declared the war in Chechnya to be concluded in April 2002. According to the Russian administration, the conflict formally ended in April 2002 and has been mostly maintained as a peacekeeping operation since then.

Sergei Ivanov, Russia's then–prime minister and former defense minister, told the BBC on July 10, 2006, that "the battle is done" and that "the military campaign lasted only 2 years."

Chechnya's current president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has likewise stated that the war is done. Others say the battle ended in 2003 with the passage of a Moscow-backed constitutional referendum and the election of pro-Moscow ruler Akhmad Kadyrov, while others feel it is still going on. Independent observers such as lvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's human rights ambassador, and Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, have stated that the war has essentially ended as of 2006.

Separatists denied the conflict had ended, and guerrilla fighting raged over the North Caucasus. Colonel Sulim Yamadayev, Chechnya's second most important loyalist warlord behind Kadyrov, also denied that the conflict has ended. Yamadayev said in March 2007 that there were over 1,000 separatists and foreign Islamic terrorists entrenched in Chechnya's mountains alone: "The battle isn't done yet, and it won't be for a long time. What we're dealing with right now is essentially a typical partisan conflict, and my prediction is that it will drag on for another two, three, or perhaps five years." The Chechen separatist movement has been significantly weakened by Russia, according to the CIA factbook, yet sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. Due to the Russian government's near-monopoly on media coverage of the problem, reporting on the general security situation in Chechnya remains extremely difficult. The conflict has not ended, according to Amnesty International, which stated in May 2007 that "while large-scale military operations have been decreased, the violence continues." For many years, the strength of the separatists was unknown. Despite the fact that Russia has murdered numerous separatists throughout the course of the war, many young fighters have joined the separatists.

According to estimates based on battle reports, the number of Federal casualties in the last three years has been more than the number of coalition losses in the Afghanistan War (2001–present). The struggle in Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus is sometimes referred to as the "War in the North Caucasus" since the abolition of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the proclamation of the Caucasus Emirate by Dokka Umarov, the president of the separatist organization. The conflict has no new name according to the Russian government, and most international observers still refer to it as a continuation of the Second Chechen War.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, visited Russia's Caucasian regions in late April 2008. After his week-long visit, Putin said he saw a number of positive improvements in Chechnya and that "clear progress" had been made. He also stated that Chechnya's court system was in good working order. According to Hammarberg, the two main human rights issues in the region are still missing individuals and the identification of missing bodies, and he emphasized his desire for more efforts to be made to clarify the situation. President Putin responded by saying that the visit was "very important" and that Russia would consider the council's recommendations.

Since 1999, the Russian army has been conducting counter-insurgency operations in Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of Chechnya and a former separatist, declared the era to be over in March 2009. President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia met with Alexander Bortnikov, Director of the Federal Security Service, on March 27, 2009, to discuss the official termination of counter-terrorism operations in Chechnya. Medvedev has asked the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, which Bortnikov also chairs, to submit a report to the Russian government on the matter, which will be considered by the Russian parliament. However, Medvedev stated that the situation in Chechnya must stay under the FSB's direct control. According to official data, nearly 480 active militants are presently battling in the mountains under the command of field commander Doku Umarov.

The counter-terrorism campaign in Chechnya was officially ended on April 16, 2009.

Last updated: 2022-March-05
Tags: History War Russia
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