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Clara Ferreira Marques

Chechen Wars Offer a Glimpse of Putin’s Next Move

Moscow started its Ukraine invasion by repeating the mistakes of the first Chechen war. But it’s the second, more systematic and repressive campaign, that may hint at the future.

Is Chechnya’s past Ukraine’s future?

Is Chechnya’s past Ukraine’s future?

Photographer: Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images

When I see images of Mariupol’s devastation, watch footage of burnt-out Russian tanks or hear the increasingly frequent Ukrainian accounts of kidnappings and disappearances, an earlier fight with nebulous motives and vicious tactics comes to mind: Chechnya.

That’s probably because after a month of fighting, Russia’s approach in Ukraine suggests that it did not just misunderstand its neighbor and misread the West. It has also taken only the wrong lessons from its two wars in Chechnya, which deeply scarred both sides and killed many tens of thousands, mostly civilians — and that’s not good news.