Via Prague Watchdog (my translation):
The war in Chechnya began 12 years ago
By Umalt Chadayev
At dawn on December 11 1994 federal forces were transferred from Daghestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia to the territory of the Chechen Republic. At the time, the Kremlin called this operation “the restoration of constitutional order”.
The formal pretext for the start of the military operation in Chechnya was the defeat of the forces of the puppet “Anti-Dudayev Opposition”, which with the active support of Russian tanks and aircraft had attempted on November 26 to seize the city Grozny and overthrow Dzhokhar Dudayev, President of the Chechen Republic and former Soviet air force general. The assault on the Chechen capital met with complete failure, and Moscow decided to carry out a large-scale military invasion of the republic.
In the autumn of 1994 there was much talk about the approaching conflict. On November 22 the State Defence Committee of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria created on the order of Dzhokhar Dudayev accused the Russian leadership of unleashing a war against the Chechen Republic. Information obtained by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (which at that time were headed by former Russian army colonel Aslan Maskhadov) showed that a concentration of Russian military units and heavy armour was taking place in Stavropol Krai, near the administrative boundary with Chechnya.
On November 23, Russian aviation subjected the city of Shali and a tank regiment deployed on its outskirts to an aerial rocket bombardment. Two days later, the Sheikh Mansur (Severny) Airport near the city of Grozny was also the target of an air strike.
On the morning of November 26, armed detachments of the so-called Chechen Temporary Soviet (headed by a former officer of the USSR Interior Ministry, Umar Avturkhanov, mayor of Chechnya’s Nadterechny district) attacked Grozny with the support of Russian helicopters and tanks. Dudayev’s units destroyed the opposition forces which entered the capital, annihilating some twenty units of armour and taking approximately the same number of tanks, whose crews were made up of officers of elite Russian divisions – the Taman and Kantemirov.
On November 30, the Russian air force subjected the city of Grozny to a missile strike. On the same day, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a secret decree “On Measures to Establish Constitutional Law and Enforce Laws in the Territory of the Chechen Republic”, which provided for the introduction of a state of emergency and the disarming of Dudayev’s units.
On December 1, a delegation of Russian State Duma deputies arrived in Grozny. During the same day Grozny was subjected to another air strike. On December 6, a meeting took place in the settlement of Sleptsovskaya (on the territory of Ingushetia) between Dzhokhar Dudayev and Russia’s Minister of Defence, General Pavel Grachev. When the discussion was over, Grachev made a public announcement that there would be no war in Chechnya.
On December 9, Boris Yeltsin signed a decree “On Measures for the Suppression of the Activity of Illegal Armed Units on the Territory of the Chechen Republic and in the Ossetian-Ingush Conflict Zone”. At the same time a resolution was passed by the Russian government providing for the use of force in Chechnya.
On the following day, the Russian Defence Minister signed a directive and order “On the Formation of a United Group of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to Disarm Illegal Armed Units on the Territory of the Chechen Republic”. These documents provided for the transfer of troops to the territory of Chechnya, a blockade of Grozny, and the disarmament of Chechen armed units.
At dawn on December 11 units of the Russian army and Russian Interior Ministry troops entered Chechnya from Ingushetia, Daghestan and North Ossetia. This occurred despite the fact that on December 12 talks were due to take place in Ossetia between representatives of Ichkerian President Dzhokhar Dudayev and the government of Russia.
Thus began the “first Chechen war”, which cost the lives of tens of thousands of Chechnya’s innocent civilians and soldiers of the federal forces. According to different estimations, as many as 30,000 Russian servicemen and Chechen fighters perished in the course of this military campaign on the republic’s territory, and up to 75,000 innocent civilians.
Little more than a year after the beginning of the war, Dzhokhar Dudayev was killed as the result of an aerial rocket attack. A few months after his death, Alexander Lebed, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, met in the Daghestani city of Khasav-Yurt with Aslan Maskhadov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, and they signed a peace agreement which put an end to the “first” war.
In the autumn of 1999 another war began in Chechnya, one which in the number of casualties and the scale of destruction exceeded the first military campaign and, actually, continues to this day.
Translated by David McDuff.