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HomeArts & CultureRussia from the Caucasus to the Syrian desert: an explainer

Russia from the Caucasus to the Syrian desert: an explainer

• What were the Chechen Wars?

Chechnya is a southern republic of Russia and has long been a restive region. After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country became quasi-independent after a series of wars with Russia. But after another assault, Russia declared victory in 2007. The war gave then-prime minister Vladimir Putin high approval ratings and he was elected president that year.

• How many people died?

Estimates vary wildly between pro-Moscow and Chechen groups, and human rights organisations. One estimate by Chechen officials puts the civilian toll for both wars at 300,000 people. Rape, torture and psychological abuse was also prevalent during both conflicts.

• What is the situation in Chechnya today?

After the war, Russia appointed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov to rule over the one-million population. Chechnya has enjoyed a period of relative calm and reconstruction has taken place. But attacks by jihadists continue.

• Why is Chechnya important in the Syrian context?

Russian tactics consisted of the aerial bombardment of a densely-populated city, and a similar pattern is emerging in Aleppo. Russian estimates that 2,400 fighters from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States are in Syria.

• What happens next?

It is hard to say – but in Grozny, the city was flattened, a hardliner now “maintains order” and the city is partially rebuilt.

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