One of multi money shots right here...
The Russian army suffered greatly during the urban fighting of the First Chechen War and during the Second War the Russian High Command was eager to avoid repeating the same mistakes. As an alternative strategy the authorities opted for devastating air and artillery strikes to ‘preserve infantry fighting strength and combat effectiveness’). This approach reduced urban centers practically to rubble and made plain to the local population that the cost of supporting the insurgency would be prohibitive.
The general in charge of the operation wrote that the bombing of the city of Komsomolskaya forced the Chechen inhabitants ‘to say a permanent farewell to their town’). The enormously high civilian casualties which such methods incurred would have provoked outrage and protest in liberal democracies but in Russia the coverage was limited and the war weary public was largely uninterested.
From a strategic perspective, these tactics were effective and the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya ) reports that 841 Chechen fighters were killed in the battle for Komsomolskaya. By bombing urban centers into submission and using overwhelming force, the Russians gradually gained control of all big cities and population points. This had the effect of forcing the rebels to flee to the mountains and therefore lose their material support base. From then on the Russian campaign was ‘a containment mission’ and the security forces adopted a ‘village-targeting strategy’) to deprive the guerrillas of support in the mountains.
Indeed, by targeting the civilian population, Russian forces were able to gradually strip the rebels of ‘sanctuary and social support’ and thereby grind them down. Russian intimidation and brutality confirmed to the general populace ‘the futility of further resistance and the risk of genocidal collapse of the Chechen population’ . By adopting strategies reminiscent of 19th century counterinsurgency policy, the Russians left the population in no doubt that any collaboration with the insurgents would be punished.
Finally, the Russians conducted a ‘relentless, extensive and protracted HVT campaign’ which yielded numerous scalps. Although the intrinsic value of decapitation campaigns has been questioned, it is surely significant that ‘the past four top leaders of the Chechen militants have been removed from their posts due to their loss in targeted killings’ .
The decimation of the Chechen leadership would have degraded the rebels’ combat effectiveness.