News24

Chechen mastermind Grachev dies

2012-09-23 18:08

Moscow - Russia's brutal 1994-1996 Chechen campaign mastermind and former defence minister Pavel Grachev died at a military hospital in Moscow at the age of 64 on Sunday.

The Afghan war veteran became a hated figure by human rights groups for convincing the late Boris Yeltsin to unleash what he had promised would be a "victorious Blitzkrieg in Chechnya" meant to stamp out a growing separatist insurgency.

Grachev's tanks ended up going up in flames in the first offensive on the capital Grozny - a humiliation that prompted him to order carpet bombings that subsequently claimed the lives of tens of thousands and displaced many more.

Grachev had been at the military hospital's emergency ward since 12 September with an unspecified medical condition.

The tough-talking minister headed defence from Russia's first full year of post-Soviet independence in 1992 until the summer of 1996.

He was removed during a heated political power struggle that was almost immediately followed by a truce agreement with Chechnya that handed the tiny Muslim region de-facto independence within a sovereign Russia.

Federal troops rumbled back into the area in 1999 in the final months of Yeltsin's presidency under the leadership of then prime minister Vladimir Putin.