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1994: Russian troops storm into Chechnya
Russian President Boris Yeltsin has ordered tanks and troops into the rebel region of Chechnya.

Hundreds of tanks and armoured personnel carriers closed in on the territory's capital of Grozny at first light this morning.

The Russian army says its mission is to restore constitutional order in Chechnya.

The mostly Muslim region declared independence from Moscow three years ago under the leadership of former Soviet air force general Dzhokhar Dudayev.

We wanted talks but instead Russia started a war
Dzhokhar Dudayev
Since that time armed opposition to Dudayev, secretly funded and supported by Moscow, has been active in the region.

In August this year Moscow set up a "provisional council" in an attempt to overthrow Mr Dudayev.

President Boris Yeltsin then issued an ultimatum saying that if fighting did not stop Russia would formally intervene.

The decision to send in troops, which comes after a two-week bombing campaign failed to quell the troubles, is a huge gamble for President Yeltsin.

His supporters say he cannot let such an important region of Russia break away as it could start the break-up of the rest of the country.

Others say it could lead to another Afghanistan.

Mr Dudayev is defiant saying he has always been willing to hold talks with President Yeltsin in return for recognition as a sovereign state.

He said: "We are right in the eyes of the world because we're defending our lives and our freedom.

"We wanted talks but instead Russia started a war."

Chechnya, which has a population of about one million which has struggled against Russian rule for two centuries.

Many are unable to forgive and forget the way they were treated in 1944 when Stalin ordered the entire nation to be deported to bleak camps in Siberia and Central Asia.

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A Russian tank invades Chechnya



In Context
A 20-month war between Chechen rebels and Russian forces followed.

An estimated 100,000 people lost their lives and many Chechen towns and villages were reduced to rubble in the bitter fighting.

Hugely outnumbered and outgunned, Chechen fighters nonetheless outfought badly led and unmotivated Russian conscripts.

Peace accords signed in 1996 gave Chechnya substantial autonomy but not full independence. The Chechen chief of staff, General Aslan Maskhadov, was elected president.

However, Chechnya had been reduced to ruins by the war and Russia failed to invest in reconstruction. General Maskhadov could not control brutal warlords who grew rich by organised crime and kidnapping.

In August 1999, Chechen fighters crossed into the neighbouring republic of Dagestan to support a declaration by an Islamic body of an independent Islamic state in parts of Dagestan and Chechnya.

By now Vladimir Putin was Russian prime minister. He put down the rebellion within a couple of weeks.

The late summer of the same year saw several explosions in Russia in which hundreds died. The Russian authorities blamed the Chechens.

President Putin sent the army back to subdue the republic by force in a second brutal campaign.

The Kremlin called a controversial referendum in March 2003 which approved a new constitution giving Chechnya more autonomy but stipulated it remained a part of Russia.

Some months after the referendum Akhmad Kadyrov was elected Chechen president with strong backing from the Kremlin - but he was assassinated in May 2004.

Stories From 11 Dec


 
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