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On August 7, 1999, a small army led by Chechen militants invaded the Russian republic of Dagestan; two days later President Boris Yeltsin elevated the director of the Federal Security Service, Vladimir Putin, to prime minister, and on October 1 Putin announced a full-scale land invasion of Chechnya. Putin became acting president that New Year’s Eve.
After the conclusion of the First Chechen War in 1996, the Russian public’s appetite for another war seemed to be low, but as the human rights activist Sergei Kovalev argued in the Review’s February 10, 2000, issue, military brass and politicians in Moscow were counting on the resumption of conflict to deliver “unprecedented political dividends for the Russian leaders who presided over it, particularly Vladimir Putin, who owes his accession to the presidency largely to his backing of the war.”
“What we want—so went the rhetoric of many politicians, including Vladimir Putin—is the merciless extermination of the ‘adversary’ wherever he may be, whatever the casualties, no matter how many unarmed civilians die in the process, no matter how many Russian soldiers must give up their lives for a military victory.”
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