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The Chechen Crisis

The Chechen CrisisThe most urgent problem of state-political development of the Russian Federation in 1994-1997 was the problem of Chechen crisis settlement. Back in autumn 1991 on the eve of disintegration of the USSR on the territory of former Checheno-Ingush republic there appeared the Chechen republic Ichkeria, at the head of which, in the result of revolution in September 1991, was a former general of the Soviet Army, the leader of the National congress of Chechen people (NKCP) Dzhokhar Dudayev.

He proclaimed independence of the Chechen Republic from Russian Federation as the major task of his policy. Elected on the initiative of executive Committee of NKCP to the post of president of the Chechen republic (on October 27, 1991) Dudayev signed a decree proclaiming Ichkeria a sovereign state. In response, on October 7, 1991 Russian President signed a decree on introduction of state of emergency on the territory of Chechen Republic. Dudayev, during the period of the next two years, organized on the territory of republic a regime of personal authority, in a pointed manner not recognizing authority of Russian legislation in the Chechen Republic. He evaded settlement of relations between the federal centre and his republic.

Meanwhile, the Chechen Republic was officially considered by the Russian leadership as a full subject of the Federation. A lot of military engineering and weapon was accumulated on territory of the republic. Dudayev used it for equipping of his own armed forces. It was a dangerous and destabilizing factor for development of political stability on Caucasia involved in interethnic conflicts.

Attempts of realization of full-scale negotiations between Moscow and separatists ran against hard-edged position of Dudayev, who demanded unconditional recognition of state sovereignty of the Chechen Republic. In this situation the federal authorities carried out an inconsistent policy trying at one time to settle relations with president Dudayev, at another supporting his opposition. As a result after years of "sovereignty", the Chechen Republic turned into one of the most dangerous and criminogenic regions of Russia.

In summer 1994 the political and military confrontation in the Chechen Republic reached its apogee.
The sharp aggravation of the Chechen crisis coincided with the capture by Dudayev's soldiers on November 26, 1994 of a group of Russian tankmen who had participated in unsuccessful storm of Grozny city, the capital of the Chechen Republic. At the beginning of December P.S.Grachev, the Minister of Defence, on recommendation of Security Council of the Russian Federation, began official negotiations with D.Dudayev to free the captured. But they did not result in settlement of Russian relation with separatists.

Seeing no political solution of the crisis, Russian authorities applied to military force. A large-scale war waged by Russian government did not bring expected results. Instead of demilitarization of Chechen people, Russian army was involved into a long and bloody operations, and only by the end of February 1995 they managed to clear the Chechen capital of groups of Dudayev's insurgents. Grozny was completely ruined and population, caught in war, was left without homes and livelihood.

For establishment of peaceful life in Grozny city and areas, occupied by federal armies, in December 1994 a "national revival" government led by S.Hadzhiyev was set up in the Chechen Republic. In middle of 1995 termination of military operation of federal armies in the Chechen Republic was officially declared, final stabilization of the situation was assigned to forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Realization of military operation in the Chechen Republic from the very beginning brought split into the political movement of Russia.

S.A. Kovalev, a commissioner on human rights at the President of the Russian Federation and State Duma, and Gaydar, the leader of 'Democratic choice of Russia' (DVR) party, reacted against President's actions. Anti-war movement began in Russia.
President and the Government found themselves in a rather difficult political situation. In spite of the fact that Grozny and the bigger part of the Chechen Republic territory were formally under control of federal army, Dudayev's armed forces continued resistance and enjoyed growing support of local population. In fact, military operation on "appeasement" of the Chechen Republic developed into a civil war for national independence. Result of realization of this military campaign was not only huge material outlay, but, which is more terrible, human victims both among soldiers and local population.

A turning point in the course of "Chechen war" became tragedy in Budennovsk city in Stavropol region, which testified to the fact that Dudayaev applied to terrorist acts tactics. The drama in Budennovsk took away more than 100 lives of innocent Russians. These events pushed the Russian government to negotiations with leadership of Chechen Republic. During negotiations a number of agreements on military block of questions was achieved, but in the political meaning the Chechen crisis was not resolved.

During presidential election in Russia in spring of 1996 the promptest regulation of Chechen crisis became the major political task of the government. Stalemate situation - "neither peace, nor war", - the situation in Northern Caucasus, did not suit either the federal authorities, or leaders of the armed Chechen opposition.

Within the framework of B.N.Yeltsin's pre-election campaign on March 31, 1996 the presidential plan of "appeasement" of Chechen Republic was promulgated, the plan provided stage-by-stage withdrawal of federal army and establishment of civil government in republic. However, during realization of the presidential plan, at withdrawal from the Chechen Republic of the 245th regiment of Moscow command, a group of federal forces was ambushed in Shatoyskoye canyon and crushed on April 16, 1996. After this tragedy the armed struggle on territory of the Chechen Republic become more intense.

Peaceableness on both sides had, to a greater extent, a propaganda shade. Immediately after B.Yeltsin's re-election for the second presidential term, the armed Chechen confrontation again became more violent. Since August 8, 1996, according to earlier developed plan of opposition headquarters, groups of separatists attacked Grozny, Gudermes and Argun cities. In the bloody fights that followed federal armies were compelled to leave capital of the Chechen Republic and suffered significant losses.

On behalf of the President of the Russian Federation, from the middle of August the secretary of Security Council A.I. Lebed began negotiations with A. Maskhadov, the Chief of Staff of armies of Ichkeria.

According to the results of elections held in the Chechen Republic at the end of January 1997, Maskhadov became the president of the republic, he formed a new structure of Chechen government, comprised basically of terrorists (V.Arsanov, S.Basayev, A.Zakayev, M.Udugov etc.). Political negotiations began from that very moment; I.P.Rybkin, the secretary of Security Council of the Russian Federation and his assistant B.A. Berezovsky represented at them federal authorities. The Chechen leaders put forward the question of the status of republic and restoration of post-war economy.

On May 12, 1997 the first meeting of presidents of Russia and the Chechen Republic was held in the Kremlin. At the meeting the treaty on peace and bases of relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen republic was signed.
On the basis of achieved and realized agreements on financing of the Chechen Republic as a subject of Federation, restoration of its national economy, renewal of running of the pipeline for transportation of raw Caspian oil from Azerbaijan, the government of the republic pressed on Moscow with the purpose to achieve concessions in gaining of "real independence" of Islamic republic Ichkeria. Activity of Grozny on international scene, good contacts of Maskhadov's administration with the countries of Islamic world was subordinated to same task. The sovereignty of Ichkeria, however, has not been acknowledged by any state of the world.

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