Chechnya in Brief (From 1990 to March of 1997)
Timeline of significant events related to Chechnya
Prelude to Chechen War
90/11/27: The First Congress of the Chechen People was held on November 26-27, in which Chechnya was declared a sovereign state. The Congress elected leaders and an executive committee, and adopted rules regarding the national flag, anthem, and the appropriate coat of arms. The Communist Supreme Soviet of People's Deputies of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR denounced the Congress and its decisions.
91/03: General Dzhokhar Dudaev became the leader of the OkchN party--the All National Congress of the Chechen People.
91/05: General Dudaev resigned from the Soviet military to take an active role in Chechnya's independence movement.
91/09/06: At the Second Congress of the Chechen People, held on September 5-6, the Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet led by Doku Zavgaev was pressured to resign. A provisional government was then set up by the Congress of Chechen Peoples and the Vainakh Democratic Party. (Vainakh is the term used to cover both the Chechen and Ingush peoples in recognition of their common heritage. The Vainakh Democratic Party initially represented both Chechens and Ingush until their split after Chechnya's declaration of independence from the RSFSR.)
91/09/30: The Kremlin, which had just recognized the independence of the Baltic States on September 6, denounced the Chechen claim to self-determination.
91/10/16: The Executive Committee of Ingushetia proclaimed a Northern Ingush Republic, in a move to separate the Chechen-Ingush ASSR.
91/10/27: General Dzhokhar Dudaev was elected President of Chechnya. Out of 638,608 eligible voters, 458,144 people participated in the election. Dudaev received 412,671 votes.
91/11/01: Issuing the "Act of Sovereignty of the Chechen Republic," newly-elected President Dudaev declared the sovereignty of Chechnya and the republic's secession from the USSR. Seven days later, on November 7, 1991, Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin declared emergency rule in Chechnya, and sent in troops to the capital, Grozny. On November 11, however, the Russian Supreme Soviet voted to reverse Yeltsin's decrees, and the troops were pulled out.
91/11/27: The All National Congress of Chechen Peoples declared Chechnya's sovereignty and adopted a Declaration of Independence.
91/11/30: In a referendum, the Ingush voted to separate from Chechnya and to remain within the RSFSR as a separate republic.
92/03: Chechnya refused to sign the new Russian Federal treaty regulating relations between the center and the regions.
92/03/12: The Chechen Congress, Parliament, President, and Judicial bodies approved the Chechen Constitution. On March 17, the Constitution was formally adopted.
92/05/25: An agreement was signed between Moscow and Grozny making provisions for the removal of CIS/Russian troops from Chechen territory.
92/07/07: All CIS/Russian troops were withdrawn from Chechnya in accordance with the May agreement.
92/11: Russian troops moved into Chechnya during their intervention in the neighboring conflict between Ingushetia and North Ossetia, provoking a stand-off with Chechnya until Yeltsin ordered the troops back into Ingush territory.
93/04/14: Following an open power struggle between President Dudaev and the Chechen parliament over the administration of the republic, the Parliament issued a vote of no-confidence in Dudaev and the Council of Ministers.
93/04/17: Dudaev abolished Parliament and declared Presidential rule.
93/05/13: The Parliament, having continued to hold sessions in defiance of Dudaev, began impeachment proceedings, marking the escalation of internal conflict in Chechnya.
93/06/10-15: A small number of Chechnya's 18 administrative districts, mostly pro-Moscow, announced that they planned to secede from "the criminal regime in Grozny. " Clashes erupted between Dudaev's forces and his opposition, escalating on June 14, the day before a referendum was held on Dudaev's presidency. Fewer than 36,000 people allegedly participated in this referendum on June 15, but the majority voted against Presidential rule and Dudaev. Dudaev subsequently survived an assassination attempt and after the referendum sat down with some of the opposition, changed his ministry to include opposition members, and took additional steps to ease tensions. Opposition to his presidency, however, continued as did assassination attempts. Quiet shuttle diplomacy was also conducted between Moscow and Grozny to discuss the possibility of negotiations on a new modus vivendi between the Russian Federation and Chechnya.
93/12: In the months after the referendum, Moscow's attention was diverted by the standoff between President Yeltsin and his own Vice President and the Russian parliament, over the adoption of a new Russian Constitution, which culminated in the shelling of the Russian White House in October 1993. In December 1993, with Moscow's internecine conflict at an end and the Vice President and leading parliamentarians in jail, Chechnya refused to participate in either the elections to a new parliament or the referendum on the new Constitution.
THE CHECHEN WAR BEGINS
94/01: Tensions between the Dudaev government and opposition groups mounted. In an attempt to unify the people, Dudaev and the Congress of Chechen peoples voted to change the name of the republic to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria--the name of a region in the mountains traditionally a symbol of freedom, bravery and unity.
94/05: An assassination attempt on Dudaev and many of his ministers in a motorcade leaving Grozny for a meeting of the cabinet killed several ministers and guards.
94/08: Many events in August 1994 contributed to Moscow's decision to encourage the Chechen opposition to topple Dudaev--including kidnappings of civilians in southern Russia and other criminal acts allegedly perpetrated by Chechens, the imminent signing of important international contracts for the production and eventual transportation of Caspian oil, and the inability of both sides to find common negotiating ground.
94/11/25-26: Moscow-backed Chechen opposition forces launched a failed assault on Grozny using Russian tanks, helicopters, combat aircraft and Russian officers recruited by the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service (FSK). Following the assault, 70 Russian servicemen were captured by pro-Dudaev forces and paraded before the Russian and international media.
94/11/30: President Yeltsin signed a decree on measures to restore constitutional legality, law and order in Chechnya to take effect at 6:00 am, December 1, 1994 and deployed troops on Chechnya's borders.
94/12/11: After sealing off Chechen borders and airspace, Russian troops entered Chechnya, beginning a military campaign to end Chechnya's independence drive.
94/12/15: After three days of bombing and armed clashes, peace talks were held on December 14, and promptly broken off. On December 15, Dudaev stated that he would talk with Russia only if the federal troops were first withdrawn.
94/12/20: As Russian planes and mortars battered the Chechen capital, a reported 100,000 Chechen civilians formed a 40-mile long human chain along the Moscow-Baku highway toward the border with Dagestan to persuade Russian forces to turn back from an assault on Grozny. This action resulted in the televised refusal of a number of key Russian commanders, including General Ivan Babichev, to lead their troops into Chechnya (Babichev later changed his mind under pressure from the Russian High Command).
95/01/01-19: Russian tanks advanced into central Grozny under cover of heavy shelling, after troops had already taken control of the military airport, sparking off a fierce battle for the Chechen capital. Hundreds of Russian servicemen were killed in the military action and more than 100 tanks damaged or destroyed. During the battle, the Russian Duma, and Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev--who came to Chechnya with other members of the Russian parliament to protest the military offensive--issued an appeal to President Yeltsin to stop the "massacre" of civilians with non-discriminate bombing, to halt combat and to seek an immediate political settlement. Several countries, including the United States, France, and Germany, also expressed concern over civilian casualties. On January 19, the Russian forces finally succeeded in raising a Russian flag over the presidential palace the symbol of Chechen resistance in the heart of Grozny. The Russian government also announced that it was no longer open to negotiations with Dzhokhar Dudaev.
95/02/16: President Yeltsin defended the military action in Chechnya, but criticized the Russian armed forces for a poorly planned and executed campaign. Prior to Yeltsin's statement, a number of senior Russian military officials critical of the war, including Deputy Defense Minister Boris Gromov, were reported in January and February as claiming that the assault on Chechnya had been launched with no preparation and using "barbaric methods," and that the military operation had subsequently bogged down because of blunders by the Russian command and the demoralization of Russian soldiers. On February 4, the pro-Russian Chechen Interim Council, also accused the Russian forces of senseless barbarity, looting robbery, and unmotivated killings of civilians. Around the time of Yeltsin's defense of the military action, the Military Council of the Internal Forces of the Interior Ministry also distributed pamphlet to its troops denouncing "looting and outrages towards the civilian population" of Chechnya.
95/03: Moscow completed its capture of Grozny after most of Dudaev's forces abandoned the city. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) established a Chechnya mission to intervene in the conflict. On March 10, 1995, Sergei Kovalev, Chairman of the Russian President's Human Rights Commission and Russia's High Commissioner for Human Rights, was removed from his position by the Russian State Duma, which censured him for his denouncement of human rights abuses during the war in Chechnya.
95/03/21: Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev was reported by Interfax to have declared himself in favor of Peace talks and ready for a dialogue with Moscow on a negotiated settlement to the war in Chechnya. Dudaev made his announcement during a meeting with Russian Duma deputy Lev Ponomarev, who had traveled to Chechnya on behalf of other Russian political figures --including the Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council, Ramazan Abdulatipov--to present a joint peace proposal worked out in February and to engage Dudaev in preliminary talks.
95/04/8-12: After the capture of Grozny, Moscow launched a concerted effort to subjugate other key Dudaev strongholds. In early April, Russian troops sealed off the small Chechen town of Samashki (population 15,000), keeping international aid workers and press out, while bombing raids destroyed the settlement. Reports of civilian deaths by international aid groups ranged from several hundred to nearly 1000 in the 4-day raid. Similar raids on other towns sparked protests and demonstrations among the civilian population throughout Chechnya.
95/05: Fighting continued in the mountains and regions of Chechnya, where the Chechen fighters had retreated.
95/06: The Moscow-based human rights organization, Memorial, published two detailed studies on civilian casualties in the war in Chechnya. One gave a detailed analysis of the November 1994-January 1995 assaults on Grozny and concluded that these had resulted in the deaths of some 25,000--mostly unarmed citizens and 3,700 children under 15. The second provided a list of 107 civilians from Samashki--mainly women, children and the elderly--killed in the April attack on the town.
95/06/14-21: On June 14, in retaliation for the Russian raid on Samashki and for the deaths of a number of his relatives in similar assaults, Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev led an attack on the town of Budennovsk, located in the Stavropol region of Russia. The approximately 70 Chechen fighters under Basaev's command reportedly attacked the police headquarters and administrative buildings, killing at least 41 residents. The gunmen then held close to 2,000 people hostage in the local hospital, and in exchange for their release, demanded the withdrawal of Russian federal troops from Chechnya. On June 17, Russian forces launched an assault on the hospital which, though it released some hostages, the assault left several hostages dead or wounded, and failed to complete the seizure of the hospital or capture the Chechen gunmen. Subsequently, on June 18, in a telephone exchange broadcast on national TV, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin negotiated the release of the hostages by agreeing to cease Russian military action in Chechnya, to open a negotiation process between the Russian and Chechen governments, and to provide amnesty to Basaev's forces. On June 19, per agreement with Chernomyrdin, Basaev's forces withdrew back to Chechnya in a convoy of buses, taking with them a group of 139 politicians, journalists and male residents, who had volunteered as hostages, to ensure safe passage to the Chechen border. Talks began immediately between the Russians and the Chechens resulting in a preliminary agreement on June 21, 1995.
Early Events in the Peace Process:
95/07/30: Dudaev field commander Shamil Basaev's surprise attack in June on the Russian city of Budennovsk, in the neighboring Stavropol region, propelled Russia and Chechnya toward the negotiating table --resulting in a July 30 military accord between Russia and Chechnya which was concluded under the observation of the OSCE mission in Grozny. The accord stipulated a cease fire, an exchange of all prisoners within one week after July 30, the disarmament of the Chechen forces, the gradual withdrawal of most Russian troops, and negotiations to find a permanent peace settlement in Grozny. A Special Observation Commission, consisting of representatives from the opposing sides, the Committee on National Accord, local elders and clergy, and the federal Territorial Administration in Chechnya, was created to carry out the military agreements. In the wake of the accord, sporadic fighting continued and the prisoner exchange, Chechen disarmament, and Russian troop withdrawal were all delayed.
95/07/31: President Yeltsin downgraded the Presidential Human Rights Commission by transferring it to the section of the presidential administration dealing with citizens' correspondence. It was suggested that this move was aimed against former Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev, who had continued to speak out against the war in spite of his removal from his official position by the Russian parliament in March 1995. On May 30, 1995, for example, Kovalev had presented a report on detention and filtration camps in and around Chechnya in which he accused Russian forces of torturing civilian detainees.
95/10/09: Commander of Interior Ministry troops, Anatoly Romanov, was injured in bomb attack in Grozny. In retaliation to the assassination attempt, Russia suspended its participation in the post-Budennovsk peace negotiations. The Chechen leadership then responded by suspending the military accord between Russia and Chechnya. The Chechens called for international observers and UN troops before returning to the bargaining table. Russia rejected these calls for international intervention and stressed that the conflict in Chechnya remained an internal matter. In light of the escalating violence, the OSCE, which had been monitoring the negotiations between Russia and Chechnya, reduced the size of its mission in Grozny.
95/10: The Russian leadership debated how to respond to the latest intensification of violence. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev called for the imposition of a state of emergency in Chechnya, but President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin rejected the proposal, noting that other measures were still not exhausted. Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin also resisted proposals by Grachev and Oleg Lobov, Presidential representative to Chechnya, to launch an aggressive response, and to eradicate those Chechen soldiers who failed to disarm. Later in the same month, Vladimir Zorin, the Deputy Head of Moscow's territorial administration in Chechnya, advanced a proposal to fight violence simultaneously with an overall strategy to solve the crisis through negotiations.
95/10: The Congress of the Chechen People met to discuss the extension of Dudaev's term as President until proper elections could be held.
95/12/08: Russia signed an accord in Moscow with former Soviet Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev's government-in-exile. The accord gave Chechnya equal rights, with other Russian republics, in line with the Russian Constitution, and set out a series of vague principles for a final settlement based on the "Tatarstan model" of regional autonomy. It allowed Chechnya (under Zavgaev) to have diplomatic offices abroad and conduct international trade, and offered those Chechen forces that turned over their weapons protection. It also laid down the framework for Chechnya to take part in the December 1995 Russian parliamentary elections and elect a new leadership. Moscow promised additional financial resources for Chechen reconstruction as part of the accord.
95/12/14: The Congress of the Chechen People (also translated as the National Congress of the Chechen Republic) formally announced and signed a document extending the term of Dudaev's presidency until proper, democratic and internationally-monitored elections could be held.
95/12/17: Moscow-supervised elections were held in Chechnya to coincide with the Russian parliamentary elections. The results confirmed the Moscow-appointed Chechen leadership under Doku Zavgaev. Chechen deputies from single-mandate districts were also selected for the Russian State Duma in Moscow. The turnout for the elections was small and the legitimacy and outcome of the elections were hotly disputed by the pro-Dudaev forces and anti-war Russian political figures such as Sergei Kovalev.
95/12/22: The Congress of the Chechen People met and signed a decree stating that the elections in Chechnya were a farce and illegal. They made provisions for the existing government to remain in place and carry out functions until conditions for free and democratic elections could emerge. This was followed by four more sessions of the Congress of Chechen People. These frequent meetings, which represented all regions of the country, were difficult to conduct with the continued fighting and demonstrated the perceived urgency of the situation.
95/12: Escalation of fighting and bombing raids on Chechen villages and Dudaev strongholds--including the second-largest city of Gudermes (population 60,000, of whom more than 600 were reported killed by the Los Angeles Times), Shatoi, Shali, Bamut and Argun --led to divisions in Moscow and criticism of the Defense Ministry as well as the provocation of Military commanders in Chechnya.
96/1/5-10: Russian Duma Deputy Konstantin Borovoi and others met with Dudaev to discuss peace initiatives.
96/01/18: The seizure of hostages in Kizlyar, Dagestan by the forces of the pro-Dudaev Chechen commander of Gudermes, Salman Raduev, ended in a Russian military debacle at the border village of Pervomaiskoye. Raduev had initially launched an assault on Kizlyar to wipe-out a Russian military base blamed for the bombardment of Gudermes and other settlements, but ended up, contrary to Dudaev's orders, seizing a hospital and taking civilian hostages. The Russian attack on the Pervomaiskoye failed to free the hostages, and some of the Chechen militia escaped. The crisis caused the Russian government and armed forces much humiliation, and sparked a political backlash in Moscow. At a meeting of the leaders of the CIS after Pervomaiskoye, Yeltsin promised reporters that Moscow would "wipe-out" Chechen strongholds and ammunition depots, and stated that "mad dogs must be shot." Dudaev also subsequently announced that Raduev had disobeyed orders in taking the hospital and hostages and would be brought to trail under full martial law. The Kizlyar-Pervomaiskoye incident coincided with the seizure of a Turkish ferry, with a number of Russian passengers on board, in the Black Sea Port of Trabazon by an ethnic Abkhazian in a signal of solidarity to the Chechens. The hijacking was brought to a peaceful conclusion by the Turkish government, but not before the ferry had sailed into the Bosphorous Straits and the heart of Istanbul accompanied by threats to blow up the ship with all on board.
96/01/31: Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federal Forces in Chechnya, asserted on January 31 that attempts to negotiate with Dudaev had led nowhere, and that the Russian leadership should concentrate on supporting Zavgaev's Government. Tikhomirov also spelled out his intention to conclude agreements with villages under the control of Zavgaev's Government as a precondition for withdrawing Defense Ministry troops from these areas and for focusing on a rout of Dudaev's forces.
96/02/09: Daily demonstrations began in Grozny with approximately 2,000-10,000 Dudaev supporters, waving green Islamic flags, protesting the illegitimacy of the pro-Moscow government of Doku Zavgaev and demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region. Attempts by the new Chechen parliament and Zavgaev to persuade the demonstrators to leave were unsuccessful. Numbers declined to around 1,000 after the Russian commander in Grozny announced that his troops would shoot to kill anyone who refused to disperse from Grozny's main square and the center of the city. Only after a shooting incident in which 6-10 people were killed did the remaining demonstrators agree to leave the city center. After the demonstrations, the Russian military blew up the ruins of the Presidential building, which had been the focus of the demonstrations and was a potent symbol of Chechen national sentiment.
96/02/11: Russia promised Zavgaev to begin withdrawing troops from Chechnya before the end of February. In early February, Zavgaev and Tikhomirov signed a peace protocol with an agreement to exchange prisoners and hand in weapons. This resulted in the withdrawal of a contingent of Russian troops from the Shatoi region on February 11--after the region agreed to subordinate itself to the Zavgaev government in Grozny and hand in weapons and prisoners.
96/02/20: President Yeltsin set up two commissions under Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Presidential advisor Emil Pain to find a negotiated settlement to the crisis. The Russian Parliament set up a third commission to analyze the conflict. At the same time, the Russian military began a series of offensives against Dudaev strongholds in Novogroznensky, Tsintaroi, Alleroi and other villages. A news blackout was also imposed in the region. Oleg Poptsov, the head of Russian State TV, was fired by Yeltsin in mid-February for critical coverage of Chechnya (New York Times, 2/21/96).
96/02/22: At a meeting with media executives, Yeltsin and Grachev accused the Chechens of being part of an international plot to take over the entire Caucasus and create a large Islamic state to block Russia's access to the Black and Caspian Seas (Monitor, 2/22/96).
96/02/24: After attacks were launched in Ingushetia on Russia's 58th army crossing the republic from Chechnya, Russian troops moved into Ingushetia to shell villages they claimed were shielding Chechen rebels--raising fears that the neighboring republic would be dragged into the war. Ingush President, Ruslan Aushev, threatened to sue Russia for the collateral damage and loss of life incurred. Meanwhile, retired Army General and Russian Presidential candidate Alexander Lebed accused the Russian government of trying to expand the war as a pretext for canceling the June 1996 Russian Presidential elections.
96/03/04: Russian Ministry of Defense forces launched an attack on Bamut, one of Dudaev's key strongholds near the border with Ingushetia, and fighting also erupted in other key villages such as Sernovodsk. Meanwhile, a section of the Baku-Stavropol natural gas pipeline was blown up twice, and a section of the Azerbaijan-North Ossetia oil pipeline. The Lenin oil refinery in Grozny was also set ablaze. Each side blamed the other for these actions; the Russian military, Dudaev's forces and Zavgaev's forces.
96/03/05: Defense Minister Grachev announced that he would travel to Chechnya to help draw up a peace plan for the conflict, by "[looking] on the spot at all versions for resolving the crisis in the republic." Grachev announced that he was willing to meet with Dudaev, and on a whistle-stop one day tour of Grozny he stated, "for such a meeting I am willing to go anywhere." Yet after meeting with Zavgaev, Grachev changed his mind and declared, "it is time to forget about Dudaev," whom he described as a murderer. Some Russian reports, however, suggested that he might actually have met secretly with Dudaev while he was in Chechnya.
96/03/07: On March 7, simultaneous with an announcement that the Russian Security Council had approved the framework for a peace plan in Chechnya, Yeltsin signed a decree to strengthen anti-terrorist measures. Yeltsin formulated a law on anti-terrorism and instructed the Foreign Intelligence Service to uncover the international connections of Russian terrorist groups. The decree also urged the mass media to show restraint when covering terrorist acts and anti-terrorist operations. This decree was clearly aimed at the operations in Chechnya by Dudaev's forces in the wake of Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoye.
96/03/07: Fighting broke out again in Grozny, as a 1,000-strong Chechen force retook most of the city in a surprise attack that refuted Moscow's claims that resistance in Grozny had been stamped out. It took more than a week for the Russian federal forces to regain control. Russian casualties were high - reports from the GRU (military intelligence) suggested that 200 Russian soldiers were killed in the first two days of the assault alone.
96/03: A congress of the Chechen and Ingush peoples was held in Volgograd with representatives of both Dudaev's and Zavgaev's governments present, as well as Ingush President Ruslan Aushev and delegates from elsewhere in the CIS, Poland, Finland, Turkey, Bosnia and Jordan. The congress focused on finding a resolution to the conflict, and urged in conclusion: that Russia negotiate with all sides in the conflict; to hold new elections to elect a Chechen government of national unity; and to acknowledge Dudaev (for now) as the President of the republic. The Congress also called on the Russian government and the Chechen government to look for a compromise solution between their respective demands that Chechnya was part of the Russian Federation and that Chechnya was independent; and suggested that the final resolution of the republic's status should be decided in roundtable talks once the war was over. At the end of the congress, the delegates (on behalf of the 1/2 million Chechen Diaspora in Russia) issued simultaneous appeals to the UN, the Russian government under Chernomyrdin, and Dudaev to bring the war to an end. The delegates also adopted a plan proposed by the Chechen movement "Bashlam" as their basic proposal for the resolution of the conflict.
96/03: A simultaneous congress of the Russian Union of Muslims was held in Makhachkala, Dagestan and declared Dudaev's war against Russia a "little jihad" (a holy war against a faithless aggressor). In recounting this event, Igor Rotar' of Izvestiya noted the rise of Islamic sentiment in Chechnya as a result of the war and the analogous effect of the Caucasian Wars of the 19th century on the consolidation of Islam in the North Caucasus. Rotar stated that only a year ago it had been hard to describe the Chechens as a religiously observant people, but that the activities of the Russian military in the republic had changed this. He suggested that the Shariat (Islamic law) was now observed in the republic for the first time since the 1930s, that Chechen villagers were prohibited from selling vodka to Russian soldiers, and that in the territories controlled by Dudaev the Shariat was the absolute law and alcohol was banned entirely. According to Rotar', this accounted, in part, for the discipline and effectiveness of the Chechen forces. As in the time of Imam Shamil, Islam was now serving as a unifying force for Chechens from different villages and teips (clans). Rotar' further suggested that as a direct result of the war in Chechnya, Russia had created for itself an even greater problem than a separatist conflict --a conflict with Muslim fanaticism.
96/03: Reports in the Russian press suggested that the Russian government was close to completing a draft law (under the guidance of Presidential advisor Sergei Shakhrai) on the delimitation of powers between the Russian Federation and its individual units, which would regulate the conclusion of bilateral "Tatarstan-style" treaties. The law, which suggested that an eventual treaty with Chechnya might be possible, was to be submitted to the Duma in April.
96/03/14: On March 14, Russian press reports suggested that Doku Zavgaev and Vyacheslav Tikhomirov had concluded peace agreements with a number of villages and regions in Chechnya to facilitate their incorporation into the Zavgaev/federal forces -held territory and to ensure the withdrawal of some of the Russian federal forces before April. According to an article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, this district by district pacification approach had already resulted in agreements with the Itum-Kalinsky (formerly Sovetskoe), Nadterechny, Naursky, Shatoisky, and Shelkov sky regions, and the Cheberloevsky, Sharoisky, and Galanchoisky districts, as well as a number of individual villages. In the meantime, Ministry of Defense troop assaults continued on villages in the Achkhoi-Martanovsky and Grozny regions, where Dudaev had strongholds. The brutality of the assaults forced even Zavgaev's pro-Moscow government to complain that Russian forces were "out of control," and to protest high civilian casualties that were turning increasingly more Chechens toward Dudaev.
96/03/15: On March 15, the Russian Security Council met to approve the government's "peace plan" for Chechnya. Yeltsin refused to divulge any information about the plan until the end of the month, but subsequent statements from his administration indicated that the implementation of the plan was already underway in Chechnya--suggesting that the framework might include agreements with individual villages and districts and then artillery assaults on those that refuse to comply to force them into submission, as described above. Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov stated that only the defeat of the "terrorists" (Dudaev's forces) would guarantee a durable peace in Chechnya. In Kommersant Daily, journalist Dmitry Kamishev noted that Yeltsin had obviously tasked the Ministry of Defense with routing Dudaev from his strongholds by the end of March and that he would then (hopefully) announce his "peace plan" with a military victory in his pocket. Were this to work, Kamishev suggested, the Ministry of Defense forces would be withdrawn in April, leaving the Interior Ministry forces to mop-up in the republic.
96/03: The regional parliament of Stavropol passed a resolution on the creation of a local self-defense force, in response to June 1995's assault on Budennovsk and the perceived inability of the federal forces stationed in the region to respond to terrorist attacks of this nature. The force, to be supported from the local budget, was to be recruited in towns, settlements and villages from volunteers who had served in the army and knew how to use weapons. The resolution did not suggest how to incorporate Cossack units into the self-defense forces, given their reserve force status in Russia and the region. Other republics in the region anxiously watched the developments in Stavropol, nervous that the resolution could set off the creation of a whole set of ethnically-based militias in the North Caucasus which might take punitive measures against non-Russians.
96/03/19: President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia visited President Yeltsin in Moscow on March 19, and proposed a Caucasus-wide resolution of the region's conflicts. A peace conference would take place in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, and would focus on bringing an end to the wars in Chechnya and Nagorno-Karabakh by strengthening ties between all the internationally-recognized governments of the region and neutralizing separatist leaders. Shevardnadze's proposal included a "Declaration of Peace, Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus", which would involve support for internationally recognized borders, measures against separatism, guarantees of human and ethnic rights, protection of transport and communication routes, and economic cooperation.
96/03/22: A press conference with Vagap Tutakov, a spokesman for Dudaev, took place in Moscow on March 22. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, he asserted that there had been 78,000 fatalities in the Chechen war after the latest round of Russian bombardment, and that a total of 238,000 civilians had been injured to date. The spokesman also stated that Dudaev was ready to have negotiations with President Yeltsin, although he would prefer to do so after the Presidential elections. (In an earlier interview with Dudaev on Russian TV on March 17-18, he had asserted that negotiations with Yeltsin were futile as the Russian President was incapable of delivering on any agreement he might make.) In addition, Tutakov stressed that an intra-Chechen dialogue would only be possible after the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, and the conclusion of an agreement allowing new presidential and parliamentary elections to take place across the whole of Chechnya. Dudaev's spokesman noted that negotiations with Zavgaev were impossible. He also asserted that Dudaev's government did not demand Chechnya's total independence and withdrawal from the Russian Federation. Instead, it supported the denunciation of the CIS accord, and announced that if the USSR were reestablished, Chechnya would be willing to become an equal founding member, but not in the capacity of "a subject of the Federation."
96/03/22: After March 20, Russian forces attacks on Dudaev strongholds were expanded from western Chechnya to villages in the southeastern, northern and central regions. However, Russian commanders complained to the press that they lacked the means to deal with Dudaev's small mobile units, which could strike anywhere. Meanwhile, a fact-finding mission by members of the Duma Defense Committee, including Aleksei Arbatov, Eduard Vorobev and Albert Makashov, concluded that the "so-called clean-up operations increase[ed] civilian casualties and the inflow of fresh volunteers to separatist units." The mission put the numbers of active Chechen gunmen at 1,500, with trained reserves numbering 5,000-6,000. The report also stressed that support for Zavgaev's government was very low among both the Chechen population and the Russian federal forces--concluding, therefore, that any intra-Chechen negotiations were not likely to succeed at this stage. The mission's report documented the low morale of the Russian troops, the lack of supplies, high casualties and absence of a clear strategy --asserting that none of the junior officers believed that the current tactics would work, and advocated instead the complete withdrawal of Russian forces and the sealing off of Chechnya's borders.
96/03/25: On March 25 in Moscow, Russian Presidential candidate and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky appealed to the UN, the Council of Europe and Russian citizens to urge Yeltsin and his government to "come to their senses and stop lying and destroying everything alive in Chechnya." Yabloko, the Soldiers' Mothers movement, and Memorial (the society set up in the 1980s to commemorate and campaign for the victims of Stalinism) formed an action committee to organize a week of protests from March 30-April 6 against the "militarist policy of Russia's leadership." Meanwhile, Yeltsin scheduled the unveiling of his promised peace plan for Sunday, March 31. Notably, the protests were scheduled to begin the day before Yeltsin's announcement of his peace plan.
96/03/27: A lengthy report published in Izvestiya on March 27, 1996 asserted that the Russian Security Services had complete information on Dudaev's supply routes and on his sources of financial, material and military support in Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Muslim countries. The article further suggested that the Russian military was doing virtually nothing to cut off these routes. The report claimed that Dudaev had 5-7,000 fighters, down from as many as 15,000 fighters when the war began, including Afghan mujaheddin contingents (who also fought in Nagorno-Karabakh), Iranian volunteers from Hezbollah, Palestinians, Tajiks, Jordanians, Libyans, Iraqis, Ukrainians, Saudi Arabians and Azeris. The report concluded with a discussion of the Chechens' preparations for terrorist activities on Russian soil, and noted that Russian special forces sent to try to eliminate Dudaev had all been successively wiped-out. The article seemed designed to raise the maximum alarm in Russia about Chechen activities, as well as to further discredit the Russian military. It also depicted the Chechens as a well-organized and integral part of a wider complex of renegade, terrorist Islamic states, thus counteracting the image of a beleaguered people fighting a defensive war.
96/03/31: On March 31, President Yeltsin made his speech on the resolution of the conflict in Chechnya, noting that "the Chechen crisis is the hardest problem for Russia. There has not been and is no simple way to resolve the conflict." He also stressed, however, that the Russian military activities had created the conditions for a change in the conflict. Yeltsin stated that all troop operations on the territory of Chechnya would be terminated from midnight on March 31, and troops would withdraw gradually from areas where there was no conflict to Chechnya's borders. A program for the settlement of the conflict would be implemented jointly by federal and republican organs. In addition, Yeltsin proposed that the Chechen leadership should work to broaden the "zones of accord, security and peace" in Chechnya (Yeltsin claimed that these now covered 1/3 of Chechen territory). The peace plan also called for free and democratic elections for Chechnya's parliament to be held in the republic. The parliament, consisting of representatives of people from all regions of the Chechen republic, as well as representatives of the federal and republican authorities, would then recreate state authority in Chechnya, allowing for power to be devolved from the Russian government to the head of the government and parliament of Chechnya. According to Yeltsin, the peace process would culminate in a treaty on the delimitation of powers between Chechnya and the Russian Federation, which would eventually result in the resolution of the issue of Chechnya's status, through discussions between Russian and Chechen plenipotentiaries. To get the negotiations underway, the Russian government expressed willingness to begin talks with Dudaev through intermediaries. In addition, a state commission, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and including representatives from the Federation Council and Duma, was proposed to supervise the entire settlement. Yeltsin stated that the State Duma should consider an amnesty for participants in the conflict, with the exception of those "who have committed grave crimes," and that the government should review its policies of distributing aid and reconstruction funds to areas in Chechnya where the situation had stabilized. Finally, Yeltsin declared that, within five days, the Ministry of Defense, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Border Forces and the Federal Security Services, along with the Chechen Government under Zavgaev, would draw up a plan of action to tackle terrorism and diversionary acts aimed at preventing the resolution of the crisis in Chechnya.