The War That Continues to Shape Russia, 25 Years Later

“They pretended that the Chechens were only fighting ,” he stated,”but the entire thing was organized by Russia, largely the F.S.K.,” the national intelligence agency that succeeded the K.G.B., together with the connivance of this army.

Andrei Rusakov, a military captain one of the 20 or so Russians seized, told how he’d signed a covert contract where the F.S.K. — called the F.S.B. — provided him a few million dollars to share in the counterfeit Chechen resistance attack.

The sin of this security agency’s failure prompted public gloating from Russia’s army. Pavel S. Grachev, the defense ministry, said on television that the armed forces might have taken good care of Chechnya with”a single paratroop regiment in a few hours.”

His boast immediately came back to haunt himwhen Mr. Yeltsin ordered the army to invade. The disastrous performance of the armed forces left Mr. Grachev possibly the most reviled person in Russia, amid accusations that he’d pushed for a military solution only to spread the whiff of corruption about him and his ministry.

Following the failed New Year’s Eve assault on Grozny, Russian forces pounded it from the atmosphere, an orgy of destruction that Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany denounced as”utter insanity.” The Russians eventually captured the town, but since the war ground on horrendous brutality on both sides, Chechens recaptured it the next year, also laid siege to Russian forces at other big cities.

In August 1996, Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, Mr. Yeltsin’s national security advisor, reached a deal with all the Chechens to halt the fighting. Mr. Yeltsin, progressively infirm, inconsistent and under siege politically, originally balked at the deal, which efficiently confessed Russia’s defeat, but finally endorsed it.

“The principal thing,” he stated,”is that bloodshed was stopped.”

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