Military Operations in Urban
The Battle of Grozny -- how not to
attack in an urban area
• Chechnya ppx. 5,800
square miles
Grozny in the center
• 1994 population was
around 449,000 – city
covered roughly 100
square miles. A large
Russian minority was
in Grozny, while
Chechnya’s overall
population then
roughly 1.2 million – of
that, 269,000 were
ethnic Russians.
Operational Setting
• December 1994
– Harsh natural conditions
• Snow
• Brutal cold
• Fog
• 4 Stage Operation planned by the Russians
Russian plan
• Stage 1 (November 29 to December 6, 1994) - Preparation
• Create force groupings for operations in Mozdok (Ingushetia),
Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia), and Kizlyar (Dagestan) and by
December 5 take control of the starting positions for the operation.
• By December 1, shift tactical aviation and ground forces’ aviation
assets to appropriate airfields.
• Simultaneously establish air defense system to ensure complete
defense of the airspace over the Chechen Republic.
• Prepare allocated electronic warfare assets to destroy the
command system of illegal armed bands on the territory of the
Chechen Republic.
*As per General Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov Russian Ministry of
Internal Affairs
Russian Plan
• Stage 2 (December 7–9)
• Advance force groupings with air support advance on Grozny from six
directions and blockade the city, creating an inner and outer ring.
– Ring one was to be Ministry of Defense controlled / roughly the city
administrative boundary
– Ring two Ministry of Defense was the city’s outer limits
• Allocate some forces to blockade larger populated areas controlled by
illegal armed bands and disarm them.
• Internal Affairs Ministry Forces was protect communications and prevent
the approach of armed groups from territory neighboring the Chechen
• Special forces subunits of the FSK and Internal Affairs Ministry were to
ensure the isolation of diversionary operations / armed actions in the rear.
*As per General Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov Russian Ministry of Internal
Russian Plan
• Stage 3 (December 10–13)
• Formations and units advance from the north and
south were to capture the presidential palace,
government buildings, television and radio facilities,
and other important structure [in Grozny].
• Then, together with special forces subunits of the
Internal Affairs Ministry and FSB, continue to confiscate
weaponry and materiel.
*As per General Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov Russian
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Russian Plan
• Stage 4 (December 15–23)
• Formations and units of the armed forces to
stabilize the situation and transfer zones of
responsibility to the troops of the Internal Affairs
Ministry who had been tasked with finding and
confiscating weaponry and armaments from
illegal armed bands and the population at large
throughout the Chechen Republic.
*As per General Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov Russian
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Russian Plan
• Russians believed that the Chechen forces set
up 3 defensive rings
– An inner ring, centered around the Presidential
Palace, had a radius of 0.5–1.5 km.
– A middle ring, at a distance of about 1 km from
the inner ring in the northwest and up to 5 km in
the southwest and southeast.
– An outer ring along the perimeter of the city and
stretching to Dolinsk. Outer and middle defense
rings based on strongpoints
Military Balance: Russian Order of
• Estimated 40,000 troops for the invasion of Chechnya – a joing
Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense operation
– 6,000 mechanized troops
– Appx. 230 T-72 and T-80 tanks, 208 ICVs and APCs, 182
artillery and mortar pieces
• Russian forces use in Grozny
– Estimated 24,000 men, 19,000 from armed forces; 4,700
from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) Internal Forces
– 34 battalions (5 motorized rifle, 2 tank, 7 airborne, and 20
Interior Ministry (MVD battalions)
– 80 tanks, 208 BMPs, and 182 artillery pieces and mortars
– 90 helicopters
Military Balance: Chechen Order of
• Chechen Order of Battle – 1st Chechen War
– 15,000 Active, 10,000 Guerilla forces
– Appx. 50 T-62 and T-72 tanks
– Primarily armed with AK47s and RPGs, other small
• Battle of Grozny (1)
– Russians believed Chechens had 10,000 in men in
Grozny (1)
• 80 122 mm Howitzers, 25 tanks, 35 armored personnel
• Some Grad rocket systems.
– Chechens say 4,500 – 6,000 in Grozny
Fighting the
From Bad Start to Phyrric Victory –
Battle of Grozny Part 1
• December 31 Grozny battle begins Russian forces
lost 20 of 26 tanks, 102 of 120 BMPs, and 6 of 6
ZSU-23s in the first three days of fighting in
– Russians lost an estimated 225 armored vehicles in
the first month of combat
– Grozny eventually fell to the Russians on February 13,
• Between January and May 1995, Russian losses in Chechnya
were approximately 2,800 killed, 10,000 wounded, and over
500 missing or captured – Chechen losses were also high
especially among civilians
Fighting the Battle
Russian Tactics
• Move in large formations / columns through the
• When resistance hit, it pounded positions in city
(homes, apt. buildings) with mortar, artillery and
air fire, followed-up with armored columns and
armored led columns moving through the streets
and main avenues of approach to objectives –
• When receiving fire or in an ambush, call-for-fire
(air, mortar, artillery, armor)
Chechen Strategy
– Exploiting the terrain
• Chechen forces had no chance on the open battlefield –
Chechens fought the Russians on the outskirts to delay their
entry, then allowed the Russians to enter Grozny to isolate
and or demolish Russian armored columns by hit and run
attacks and ambushes looking to bog and or trap the
Russians isolate units, and then rain in with mortars, artillery
and grad (when available) fire
• Peripheral buildings in and around central Grozny were
primarily single-story, -- a positional advantage over the
attackers was established by carrying out anti-armor (AT)
ambushes along roads, using the taller buildings in the city’s
center for spotters and firing positions.
• Mix use of “regular” and irregular forces
Chechen Units
• Regular Forces:
• Chechen “regular” forces were concentrated around
the presidential palace where Dudayev was running
the operation from
– Appx. 2,000 men • Basic unit: Squad-sized, or 8-10 men, usually armed with one or
two RPGs, a light machine gun (RPK), 1-2 snipers and the rest with
Kalashnikov assault rifles (AK-47)
• 35 tanks (dug into defilade to the hull in between buildings and or
inside buildings – fields of fire of the tanks were down avenues of
– Several Grad multiple rocket launch systems
– Equivalent of a US light infantry brigade with tank
Chechen Units
• Smallest unit: hunter-killer team composed of
RPG gunner, machine gunner and sniper
• Snipers and designated marksmen omnipresent in Grozny
• Squad two or three hunter-killer teams
• Each squad had two heavy machine gunners (base
of fire), two RPG gunners, one sniper, and three
• Team/Platoon (20-30 men)
• 75-100 man Company sized element -- 3 Platoons
Chechen Tactics
• Ad hoc, mobile Defense -- small to large teams roaming
and moving around the city as needed
• RPG and sniper fire was continuous and directed at
everyone and everything
– Used as area attack weapons against armor, personnel and
air (low-flying helicopters)
– Fired at an angle to clear buildings to strike targets on
other side
– Fired in volleys
• All Chechen units tried to hug (get as close to as
possible) the Russians as much as possible to prevent
the Russians from firing on their own (not always a
factor – its Russians we are talking about) with air
support, artillery, mortar etc. If the Russians acted like
Russians, they would at least kill their own.
Chechen Tactics
• Snipers, designated marksmen omnipresent
• Hit and Run
– Smallest unit: hunter-killer team composed of RPG
gunner, machine gunner and sniper
– Also had mobile groups (squads) of ten to twelve
people with each group consisting of one grenade
launcher, two snipers, and the rest with automatic
– Whittle down Russian forces as much as possible
and or goad them into walking an ambush
Chechen Tactics
• Ambushes were led by cca. 75-man units broken into three
cca. 25-man mobile squads (platoons):
– Each of these had a minimum of two heavy machine gunners
(base of fire), two RPG gunners, one sniper, and three riflemen
– Three of these 25-man groups (supported by an 82mm-mortar
crew with two tubes) would conduct an ambush as a 75-man
– Three of the eight-man squads would serve as a "killer team"
and set up in three positions along the ambush route. They
would occupy the lower level of buildings in the ambush zone to
prevent being killed, wounded or forced to take cover by
incoming artillery. The remaining men would occupy blocking
positions to prevent the entrapped from escaping and to
prevent and be able to react to reinforcements from/trying to
enter the ambush area
– Both hit and run and ambushes always had escape routes
Chechen Tactics
• Chechens would try and inflict as much damage to
approaching Russian forces in the streets and alleyways as
• In Grozny’s buildings, Chechens in basements, on the
ground floor, on the 1st floor, on the 2nd floor, etc.,
underground, and on the roof – they were all over the
– Chechens would make (or use) holes at key points in walls,
floors and ceilings for fire / grenades, nail bombs, Molotov
cocktails , etc. by having Chechen units move out of a position
as Russians advanced and allowed the Russians in a building /
floor or room to entrap them – poor coordination and improper
clearing and holding by Russians assisted the Chechens inflicting
terrible casualties on Russian forces
Russian Tactics – Adapt and Overcome
• NCMD staff decided that they would have to seize Grozny in by section,
one building at a time.
• By Jan. 3 Russian commanders divided the city into sectors, assigning a
small base unit of four to six men to each.
• Every group consisted of a leader, a radio operator, a marksman, a
grenadier, and a couple riflemen.
• Russians began using tanks and artillery in support of the dismounted
infantry. Heavy artillery fire on a route of advance to reduce buildings to
• To an extent effective but it also put rubble in the streets which slowed
tanks and armored vehicles, leaving them exposed, and piles of rubble
made natural ambush positions / new, unmapped obstacles / cover for
• February 13 Grozny officially in Russian hands – Chechens go to the
southern mountains to continue fighting – switched tactics to fit the
• Chechens went to the hills and waged a guerilla
war for the next year-and-a-half
• On the verge of total defeat, a last-ditch attack on
Grozny exploited Chechen knowledge of the
terrain, Russian forces lack of discipline – 15000
to 2500 Chechens forced approximately 12,000
Russians in Grozny to surrender in August 1996 in
Operation Zero Option, seizing key terrain,
entrapping Russian forces
• Clear, secure and hold your ground!

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