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second chechen war

Written by Amna Walistan 1:43 pm Articles, International Relations, Published Content

The Second Chechen War: Seizing Chechnya

The Khasav-Yurt Accord of 1996 didn’t last long and was followed by another bloody war between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian Federation. Known as the Second Chechen War (or the second Chechen campaign), this war of independence resurfaced in August 1999 and continued for another ten years till April 2009. The bloody encounter led to thousands of deaths, and granted significant autonomy to Chechnya.
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About the Author(s)
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Amna Walistan is currently pursuing her bachelor's in international relations at National Defence University, Islamabad. Her areas of interest include the geopolitics of the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indo-Pacific region.

Background

Chechnya, a region in the North Caucasus, has always shown resistance to foreign rule, which is why when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it declared independence. However, when its demand for autonomy was not granted, it resorted to a full-fledged conflict with Russia in 1994, which became widely known as the first Chechen war. The war cost thousands of lives from both sides and ultimately ended with a Khasav-Yurt Accord that granted a de facto liberation to Chechnya.

Russian-Chechen Relations (1996-1999)

After the Khasav-Yurt Accord was signed between Russia and Chechnya, Russian forces withdrew from Chechnya in 1996. However, Russian-Chechen relations remained hostile. The border clashes, along with the criminal activities of Chechen separatists, enhanced the political tensions between the two.

The Chechen separatists were alleged of various bombings, including those that exploded in the Russian railway station of Armavir and Pyatigorsk in 1997. The Russian side also didn’t remain quiet, and responded to these attacks by making various assassination attempts in the next two years, to get rid of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

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Invasion of Dagestan

In 1999, a series of bombings took place in Dagestan’s Buynaksk, which killed hundreds of people. Later, it was revealed that these bombings were organized by Achemez Gochiyaev on the orders of Khattab and Abu Omar al-Saif. The bombings were followed by the invasion of Dagestan, which initiated the Second Chechen War.

Chechen leaders Shamil Basayev and Ibn-al-Khattab also went for an attack on the Republic of Dagestan on August 7, 1999. Both leaders led two armies of 2000 people, comprising mujahideen, Arabs, Chechen and Wahhabist militants.

For the first time, aerial-delivered fuel-air explosives (FAE) were used in mountainous areas during this invasion. However, it didn’t take long for the Chechen forces to liberate the captured areas and push the Chechen militants back into Chechnya. Nonetheless, the invasion resulted in several hundred deaths from both sides.

The War in 1999-2000

The next two years were marked by the Russian offensive in which land and air wars were waged against Chechnya. To teach the militants involved in the invasion of Dagestan a lesson, Russia launched aerial attacks in Chechnya. The Russian aerial bombings forced around 100,000 Chechens to flee Chechnya and take refuge in the neighboring region of Ingushetia.

Right after Vladimir Putin took charge as the Prime Minister on 1 October 1999, he decided to take back control of Chechnya’s northern plain. To make the cut, he instructed the Russian troops to go for a land invasion. Thus, within the next four days, Russian troops managed to reach the Terek River. Seven days later, they succeeded in crossing the Terek River which enabled them to go for a two-pronged attack on the Chechen capital to the South.

Unlike the First Chechen war, Russia advanced slowly into Chechnya and even made use of artillery and air power to achieve the desired results. After an intense tank and artillery bombardment against Chechen separatists, Russian troops finally succeeded in taking control of a major strategic rim, which was within the artillery range of the Chechen capital, Grozny.

In October 1999, a marketplace in Central Grozny, which was considered a hub of Chechen militants, was attacked by Russian troops. In the attack, short-range ballistic missiles were used which resulted in the death of 140 Chechens, including unarmed locals, women, and children.

In November 1999, Russia managed to take control of Gudermes, the country’s second-largest city. The Russian armed forces also captured the village of Achkhoy-Martan. Russian forces also started the assault on Grozny which finally ended on 2 February 2000 with gaining control of Grozny.

Restoration of the Federal Government

In May 2000, Chechnya came under the direct rule of Russia. A new government was formed in Chechnya and a pro-Russian leader Akhmad Kadyrov was appointed interim head by Vladimir Putin. Later on, as a result of the referendum, a new constitution was passed in March 2003 which granted Chechnya a significant degree of autonomy; however, it continued to remain under the Moscow government.

Guerilla War in Chechnya

Despite the end of large-scale fighting, daily attacks persisted, especially in the southern regions of Chechnya and areas surrounding the Caucasus. The Chechen separatists didn’t stop targeting Russian and pro-Russian officials either. Moreover, they also attacked rival military and security forces and vehicles. The Russian forces responded with counter-insurgency operations, which involved the use of artillery as well as air strikes.

Through direct counter-insurgency operations, Russian troops successfully managed to put the Chechen insurgency under control. Both sides resorted to assassination tactics as well. In 2004, Russian intelligence agencies succeeded in killing Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar, which was followed by the assassination of pro-Russian Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov by Chechen separatists.

Impacts

The second Chechen war has been widely condemned for the human rights violations that occurred throughout those years. According to Western European rights groups, around 5,000 forced disappearances were documented in Chechnya since 1999. Similarly, bombings by Chechens and airstrikes by Russian troops killed 25,000 civilians, including women and children.

Apart from thousands of deaths and injuries, the conflict also caused environmental damage and destroyed the land mines in Chechnya. The war also displaced thousands of Chechens and left many others handicapped. The effects of the war are even visible today in the form of the deeply impacted economy of Chechnya and Russia, as well as the political radicalization that is even prevalent today.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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