First war with Russia
On December 11, 1994, Russian forces invaded Chechnya. The first Russian troops to enter Grozny were unprepared for the intense resistance they would encounter, and suffered great losses. It took them over two months to occupy the city, at an estimated cost of 27,000 civilian lives (mainly those of ethnic Russians). Grozny was reduced to rubble. A Russian-supported“provisional government” was set up under former Soviet oil minister Salambek Khajiev.
Russian control of Chechnya
By the summer of 1995, Russian forces were in control of Chechnya’s towns, though they remained vulnerable to guerrilla attack. A ceasefire in June was followed by new negotiations. These collapsed in October, when the general in charge of the Russian delegation was badly injured by a car bomb. Full-scale hostilities resumed in December.
Chechen separatists capture Grozny
A Russian missile killed Dudayev in April 1996. Then on August 6, the day of Yeltsin’s inauguration for his second term as president, the separatists suddenly launched their largest offensive of the war, caught Russian commanders unprepared, and succeeded in capturing Grozny as well as other towns.
Human rights violations
Both sides violated human rights. Many Chechen civilians were killed by Russian troops or tortured in “filtration camps.” Chechen warlords Basayev and Raduyev conducted raids on neighboring towns outside Chechnya and took thousands of civilian hostages.
During two major raids (in 1995 at Budennovsk and 1996 in Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe, Dagestan), Chechen fighters killed several hostages. Russian troops responded with an attack on rebels and hostages, causing many civilian casualties. Dudayev condemned the first attack, while the second seems to have been conducted with his approval. The Chechens often targeted civilian rather than military targets. The Russians often engaged in indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, torture, and extra judicial executions. Fighting often took place in civilian areas, where the rebels sought to hide. The human toll of the war was reportedly around 100,000,most civilians.
During 1995, the OSCE sent several missions to Moscow and Chechnya. The first was a fact-finding mission that provided a report to the Permanent Council. A second sought to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, explore the possibility of establishing a national human rights body, provided assistance in setting up local administration and government, as well as local and republic-wide elections.
The Permanent Council established an OSCE Assistance Group in April 1995 with a broad mandate, but under very difficult conditions. The mission in Grozny sought to be a mediator, criticize human rights violations, and support the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
In May 1995, direct talks between the parties began at the office of theAssistance Group. An agreement provided for an immediate cessation of hostilities, liberation of detained persons, the withdrawal of troops, and the establishment of a Special Observer Commission, but could not be implemented due to the fighting. The Assistance Group had to contend with threats to personal safety from indiscriminate firing, as well as restrictions on its operations and freedom of movement.
The Russian government opted to bring a stop to fighting an unpopular war. Yeltsin sent the new chairman of the Security Council, General Alexander Lebed, to negotiate an end to the conflict with the Chechen military commander, General Aslan Maskhadov
Their agreement was only the first step toward a settlement. Chechnya’s constitutional status was left for further negotiations, to be completed by2001. Russia agreed to withdraw its forces from Chechnya before the presidential elections scheduled for the end of January 1997.
By the end of 1996, the Assistance Group successfully facilitated contacts between the conflicting parties, playing a major role in bringing about theMoscow agreement (where it says “with the mediation of the OSCEMission”) and the two Nasran protocols in June 1996.
The OSCE played a leading role in organizing these elections. The OSCE provided financial support for the technical election preparations and the election observation mission, including the deployment of international election observers. The OSCE Election Observation Team also issued a report on the elections, Maskhadov won with 65% of the vote.