BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 23 April, 2001, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Analysis: Chechnya's endless war
A woman clears rubble from her house in Grozny, which was hit by Russian mortar fire (17 04 2001)
The war in Chechnya rumbles on despite Moscow's efforts
By Thomas de Waal

Each side in the conflict in Chechnya gives it a different name and in a sense both are right.

The Chechen rebels call their struggle a "war of liberation". They say that Chechnya has never voluntarily joined Russia and has only ever been conquered by military force.


Recent events have shown that Mr Putin is no nearer sorting out Chechnya than any of his predecessors

For them the 1994-6 war fought with Moscow and the latest campaign to crush Chechnya's bid for independence, which began in the autumn of 1999, prove that Russian governments only talk the language of force.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin calls the conflict an "anti-terrorist operation".

Worryingly for the Russian president, there are increasing signs that opposition to Moscow's will in Chechnya is refusing to die down.

'Criminals and kidnappers'

Russian officials say they only sent in troops to the breakaway republic in 1999 after a string of random bomb explosions in Moscow and two southern Russian cities killed more than 200 civilians.

Officials in Moscow argue that after their troops left in 1996, Chechnya became a haven for organised crime and kidnapping.

Russian Interior Ministry troops in Shali, 25km south-east of Grozny (19 04 2001)
Russian troops are still busy overcoming rebel resistance
The man reported to be one of the leaders of the seizure of the Swissotel in April is Muhammed Tokcan, a Turkish Chechen, who led another high-profile operation in January 1996.

He took over a cruise liner in the Black Sea with hundreds of passengers on board, just as Chechen fighters were holding hundreds of hostages in the village of Pervomaiskoye on the Dagestan-Chechnya border.

The aim of that operation seems mainly to have been to seize public attention rather than hold hostages for ransom.

Broad support

The Chechens, who are Muslim, have broad public support in Turkey and the Middle East.


Two years ago many young Chechens were only happy at the thought of rejoining Russia and regaining some kind of stability. Now many of them are again taking up arms against the Russian army

There are large Chechen diasporas in both Turkey and Jordan, the descendants of Chechens who fled the Caucasus after the wars of the 19th century.

Of the one million or so Chechens living worldwide, more now live outside Chechnya than inside the republic, as a result of perpetual conflict.

Promise unfulfilled

President Putin came to power with a promise to resolve the Chechen problem by force.

Muhammed Tokcan
Muhammed Tokcan, a Turkish Chechen, hijacked a Turkish ferry in 1996
His campaign against the rebels in the second half of 1999, first in the eastern region of Dagestan and then in Chechnya itself, brought him widespread public support that helped him to win election for president in March 2000 in succession to Boris Yeltsin.

Recent events have shown that Mr Putin is no nearer sorting out Chechnya than any of his predecessors.

In March a group of hijackers seized a Saudi aeroplane and took the passengers hostage. When Saudi security forces stormed the plane, one hijacker and one Russian stewardess were killed.

In April three bomb explosions in southern Russia killed more than 20 people. Chechen separatists denied responsibility, but Russian officials blamed the attacks on Chechen rebels.

And recently two officials of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration have been assassinated.

Diversity of rebels

Moscow's problem is that it is facing a Chechen opposition which is increasingly diverse and uncoordinated.

During the first campaign of 1994-6 most fighters were loyal to the first Chechen president, Dzhokhar Dudayev.


Media coverage of the recent conflict is also far more restricted... [meaning] the Russian military is free to act with much greater brutality

Name Here
Now Chechen fighters are split on political and religious lines. Much of the money for the resistance cause is reported to be coming from countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan - and going to the more radical figures.

The Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected president in 1997, is a moderate and against Islamic extremism. But he has decreasing influence, while Russia refuses to hold talks with him.

Mr Maskhadov refuses to renounce his claim for independence, while Moscow says it will only negotiate with him if he accepts that Chechnya is part of Russia.

Limited coverage

Media coverage of the recent conflict is also far more restricted.

That means the Russian military is free to act with much greater brutality.

There are reports that young Chechen men disappear at checkpoints and are detained and tortured on suspicion of being rebel fighters.

Two years ago many young Chechens were only happy at the thought of rejoining Russia and regaining some kind of stability. Now many of them are again taking up arms against the Russian army.

Thomas de Waal is co-author of Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus.


Key stories

Turkey picture
See also:

23 Apr 01 | Europe
23 Apr 01 | Europe
16 Mar 01 | Europe
16 Mar 01 | Middle East
20 Apr 01 | Europe
29 Nov 00 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes