Dzhokhar Dudayev, a retired Soviet Air Force general, was elected president of Chechnya in 1991. Under Dudayev, Chechnya promptly -- and unilaterally -- seceded from the Russian Federation.
Over the next three years, tensions with Moscow steadily grew as Dudayev took steps to build a national army in a bid to prop up Chechnya's independence. Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin hesitated on how to bring the rebellious general back into the fold.
Finally, after several attempts to forcibly depose Dudayev through proxies, Moscow issued an ultimatum on November 29, 1994. Russia's National Security Council told Chechnya's government to disarm and submit to Moscow, or face retaliation.
On December 11, 1994, Russian troops entered Chechnya. Officially, their mission was to restore Moscow's authority over the secessionist republic.
On December 31, 1994, Russian troops began bombing Grozny and sent four armored columns toward the city's center. The initial street battles ended with thousands of Russian and Chechen casualties, and the destruction of hundreds of Russian fighting vehicles. The Russians retreated, but then mounted a second assault on January 4.