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Gorbachev: Chechen War 'Great, Tragic Mistake'

11 December 2004 -- Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said today the decision to send Russian troops into Chechnya 10 years ago today was a "great and tragic mistake."

It was on 11 December 1994 that then President Boris Yeltsin ordered Russian troops into Chechnya to subdue the rebellious republic. After two years of fighting, the troops pulled out in 1996. But they were ordered back in again in 1999 by then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was to succeed Yeltsin as president a few weeks later.

Gorbachev, in an interview with Interfax today said that since fighting began 10 years ago, "thousands of people were killed,
Chechnya has suffered catastrophic devastation, but the situation there still remains unsettled".

(RFE/RL Russian Service/AFP)