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The Battle Of Grozny And The First Chechen War

An old woman returns to Grozny in 1995 after a battle between Chechen separatists and Russian forces had leveled much of the city.
An old woman returns to Grozny in 1995 after a battle between Chechen separatists and Russian forces had leveled much of the city.

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.

Overwhelmed by Russian firepower, Dudayev's troops abandoned the Chechen capital after the initial days of fierce street fighting. They withdrew to the mountainous south.

After weeks of street fighting and aerial bombardment, a truce was announced on February 8, 1995, and the remaining Chechen forces withdrew from the city.

Dzokhar Dudayev (1944-1996)
Dzokhar Dudayev (1944-1996)

Dudayev was assassinated in a Russian laser-guided missile attack in April of 1996. He was 52 years old.

In August 1996, Chechen separatist forces recaptured Grozny in a surprise raid and forced Moscow to negotiate a peace agreement which was signed on August 30.

A few months later, separatist chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov succeeded Dudayev in an election recognized by Moscow and the international community.

In the fall of 1999, however, Russian troops reentered Chechnya and the war resumed. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who would succeed Yeltsin as president a few weeks later, presented the new war as a crusade against Chechen "terrorists" that he blamed for a series of deadly apartment bombings in Moscow.

Russian forces bombed Grozny and seized the capital again in early February 2000, after much of the city's civilian population had evacuated. Chechnya has remained under Moscow's control since, with limited autonomy.