"The city has been totally and deliberately demolished, with not a single building left standing in many parts," says TIME Moscow correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich. "And it looks like it's been done deliberately, as a vicious form of punishment. But while the Russian army may proclaim victory, there'll be no stability in Chechnya as long as there are any Chechens still able to hold weapons." Most immediately, Russia fears a Chechen strike on February 23, the anniversary of Stalin's wartime mass deportation of the Chechens to Kazakhstan. But the long-term implications of the Chechnya campaign may be even more troubling. "Reconquering Chechnya means bringing some 800,000 Chechens who harbor no goodwill toward Moscow back into Russia," says Zarakhovich. "One commentator likened it to bringing a bomb with a faulty detonator into your house. This illusion of victory may be a consolation for Russians' feeling of humiliation since the Cold War, but it actually increases the dangers." Indeed, in January, five months after it launched its anti-terrorism crusade in Chechnya, the Russian government warned citizens that the danger of terrorist attacks in Russian cities was now greater than ever.
Talk about destroying the village in order to save it... A week after announcing it had "liberated" Grozny, Russia's military on Monday ordered the Chechen capital's remaining civilians to evacuate and declared the city off-limits. If Moscow's objective in Chechnya had truly been its proclaimed goal of freeing the territory from the grip of a handful of "terrorists," the ghost town of Grozny stands as a gruesome monument to Russia's failure. After all, the vastly outnumbered Chechen guerrillas who held off Russian forces for seven weeks are still for the most part at large and Russian officers freely admitted that the city was declared off-limits in part to stop them from returning. It was the city's 300,000 civilian residents who bore the burden of Russia's campaign, the bulk of them forced into refugee camps in far-off Dagestan and Ingushetia with little prospect of ever returning to homes pulverized by Russian artillery and bombs, the remainder who had braved out the Russian siege cowering in freezing basements now ordered to leave by their "liberators."