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In October 2002 a group of Chechen militants seized a Moscow theatre and took nearly 700 spectators and performers hostage.
Dzhokhar Dudayev, a Chechen politician and former Soviet air force general, carried out a coup against the local communist government.
Dudayev was elected Chechen president in October, and in November he unilaterally declared Chechnya’s independence from the Russian Federation (subsequently Russia).
In 1996 Dudayev was killed during Russian shelling, and the following year former guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov was elected president. Boris Yeltsin and Maskhadov signed a provisional peace treaty in May 1997 but left the question of Chechnya’s eventual status undetermined.
It was estimated that up to 100,000 people in Chechnya died and more than 400,000 were forced to flee their homes during the 1990s.Russian troops, which had withdrawn from Chechnya after the agreements of the mid-1990s, returned in late 1999 after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed Chechen secessionists for bombings that killed scores of civilians in Russia.