Moscow plots escape from Putin's long and deadly war

The war in Chechnya has been called Putin’s war. It began in August 1999 – following Vladimir Putin’s appointment as Russian prime minister – after Chechen Islamists invaded nearby Dagestan.

With the backing of the then president, Boris Yeltsin, Mr Putin not only used air and ground forces to evict the invaders, but also sent Russian troops back into Chechnya to topple the government of Aslan Maskhadov, who had been elected in 1997. It was an unexpected move, since an earlier war in Chechnya, from 1994 to 1996, had resulted in humiliating defeat for Russian forces. After being driven out of the Chechen capital, Grozny, by massive air and artillery bombardment, the Chechen fighters had recaptured the city. Their success forced Russia to make a peace deal, which gave Chechnya de facto independence within the Russian federation. But Chechnya’s image in Russia was poor, especially after terrorist bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities in autumn 1999 killed more than 300 people. No one was convicted of the attacks, but the Kremlin and the Russian media blamed the Chechens. Full Story

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