Academic journal article Military Review

Grozny 2000: Urban Combat Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Military Review

Grozny 2000: Urban Combat Lessons Learned

Article excerpt

The apartment bombings in Russia had a telling effect on Russian public opinion, underscoring the Russian perception that Chechnya was a bandit state without law and order and where terror and kidnappings were common, thereby directly threatening the Russian population. Putin and Russian military. commanders stressed that Russian society would not be safe until the Chechen threat was completely eliminated

TODAY, GROZNY IS NO MORE. The contrast between the damaged Grozny before the latest battle and the utter destruction afterwards could not be more pronounced. The literal leveling of the city points to lessons that the Russian Armed Forces learned from their earlier battles for Grozny.

The January 2000 battle-was the second major battle for Grozny in five years along with two minor battles in 1996. In fall 1994 Grozny was the scene of fighting between opposing Chechen forces, those of President Djokhar Dudayev versus the Dudayev opposition, which received covert support from President Boris Yeltsin's government in Moscow. In late November, the opposition attacked Grozny with a few tanks and armored vehicles and was quickly annihilated. A month later, the first major battle for Grozny took place. It involved Russia's armed forces and turned the city into a bloody battleground before the Russians drove Dudayev's forces from the city. In August 1996 the Chechens retook the city.

In late 1999 and early 2000, after a very wellplanned advance to the Terek River, Russian forces again assaulted Grozny-this time with artillery fire and air power instead of tanks and infantryturning the city into rubble.1 This battle for Grozny proved different from the infamous January 1995 battle in both the attackers' strategy and tactics.

This article examines what lessons the Russian army learned from the 1995 battle for Grozny and applied to the January 2000 battle. It also examines what lessons the Russian army either failed to learn or chose not to apply.2

Background and Observations

Russian use of force in the North Caucasus finally came as a response to a raid by Chechen-led forces into Dagestan in August 1999. Sergei Stepashin, who had replaced Evgeniy Primakov as prime minister in May, sought international legitimacy by labeling this an antiterrorist action. As the fighting escalated a series of bomb blasts ripped through apartment houses across Russia, President Yeltsin appointed a new prime minister, Vladimir Putin, the former head of the Federal Security Service and then the Security Council. Putin ordered Russian forces to begin a deliberate advance into Chechnya across its northern plain to the Terek River and tasked the forces with neutralizing Chechen terrorists and bandits.

The bombings in Russia had a telling effect on Russian public opinion, underscoring the Russian perception that Chechnya was a bandit state without law and order and where terror and kidnappings were common, thereby directly threatening the Russian population. Putin and Russian military commanders stressed that Russian society would not be safe until the Chechen threat was completely eliminated. To their credit, this time the Russians did not attempt an initial coup de main against Grozny but instead maneuvered toward the Terek (see map on page 63). The intervention force initially numbered 80,000 ground troops of the Ministry of Defense and 30,000 men from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Russian analyst Dmitrii Trenin, a retired officer now working at the Carnegie Institute in Moscow, noted the following improvements:

Commanders of the Combined Federal Troops considered many mistakes from the first Chechen War of 1994 to 1996 and drew to some extent on NATO experience in Kosovo as well. From the very outset of the war, when attacks were made they were massive and as precise as possible. The size of the federal force exceeded by two to three times the average number of troops used in the first war with Chechnya. …

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