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LMC 2023

Wars and Rumours of Wars: Chechnya and Ukraine

When analysing how Russia reached the point of launching an all-out invasion of Ukraine, its war in Chechnya, from 1999 to 2009, stands out as a particularly important reference point. The war that brought Putin to power already featured the now familiar manipulation of history, accusations of Nazi sympathies, state control of the media, and anti-western rhetoric. Despite the warnings of Russian human rights defenders and independent journalists like Natasha Estemirova and Anna Politkovskaya, Russian society largely turned a blind eye to what was unfolding in front of them, as did many in the west. Russia has, for more than two decades, benefited from what Alexander Cherkassov of Memorial has described as a “chain of impunity”. The war in Ukraine has many differences from the war in Chechnya. Among them, Russia’s atrocities have been more widely documented, both increasing support for Ukraine in the international arena, and offering better prospects of justice for its victims. The war has also seen the large-scale use in combat of private military contractors, notably the notorious Wagner Group.


Manuel Lafont Rapnouil

Head of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Centre for Analysis, Planning and Strategy

Natalie Nougayrède

Journalist, adviser to the School of Civic Education, former member of The Guardian editorial board

Angela Stent

Non-Resident Fellow at The Brookings Institution and Senior Advisor at Georgetown Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies

Fredrik Wesslau

Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Stockholm Centre for East European Studies

Greg Yudin

Professor at The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and Visiting Research Scholar at Princeton University


Michael McFaul

Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University

What lessons can be drawn from Putin’s previous wars to guide responses today? What impact have Russia’s wars had on its people and society? How has Russia’s use of private military contractors impacted the war in Ukraine, and what are the implications for any future Russian military adventurism? What can be done to ensure that state and non-state actors face justice for their war crimes? Can Russian society also be made to face up to its complicity in the actions of the armed forces that fight in its name?

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

The Bible, Matthew 24:6