Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis

The Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis took place from 14 to 19 June 1995, when a group of 195 Chechen separatists led by Shamil Basayev attacked the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk, some 110 kilometres (70 mi) north of the border with the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The attack resulted in a ceasefire between Russia and Chechen separatists, and peace talks (which later failed) between Russia and Ichkeria.

Budyonnovsk hospital
terrorist act
Part of the First Chechen War
Hostages released from the hospital at Budyonnovsk
LocationBudyonnovsk, Stavropol Krai, Russia
Coordinates44°47′02″N 44°09′57″E / 44.7839°N 44.1658°E / 44.7839; 44.1658
Date14–19 June 1995
Attack type
Hostage crisis
PerpetratorsChechen separatists led by Shamil Basayev and Aslambek Abdulkhadzhiev
MotiveForcing ceasefire in the war, securing safe return to Chechnya
Location of Stavropol Krai territory on the map of Russia

Initial attack


Basayev's men crossed into Stavropol Krai concealed in a column of military trucks. At about noon on 14 June, they stormed the main police station and the city hall, where they raised Chechen flags over government offices.

Several hours after Russian reinforcements arrived, the Chechens retreated to the residential district and regrouped in the city hospital. There they took hostage between 1,500 and 1,800 people (some estimates reaching as high as 2,000 or even 2,500), most of them civilians (including about 150 children and a number of women with newborn infants). On their way to the hospital, they shot 100 civilians that refused to cooperate.[1]

Hostage crisis


Basayev issued an ultimatum, threatening to kill the hostages unless his demands were met. These included an end to the First Chechen War, and direct negotiations by Russia with the Chechen representatives. Also, Basayev demanded that the Russian authorities bring reporters to the scene and allow them to enter the Chechen position in the hospital. Russian president Boris Yeltsin immediately vowed to do everything possible to free the hostages, denouncing the attack as "unprecedented in cynicism and cruelty".[2]

At about 8 pm on 15 June, the Chechens killed a hostage. When the reporters did not arrive at the arranged time, five other hostages were shot to death on Basayev's order.[3] The New York Times quoted the hospital's chief doctor that "several of the Chechens had just grabbed five hostages at random and shot them to show the world they were serious in their demands that Russian troops leave their land."[4]

Security Minister Sergei Stepashin called the reports of the execution "a bluff".[4]

After three days of siege, the Russian authorities ordered the security forces to retake the hospital compound. The forces employed were MVD police ("militsiya") and Internal Troops, along with spetsnaz (special forces) from the Federal Security Service (FSB), including the elite Alpha Group. The strike force attacked the hospital compound at dawn on the fourth day, meeting fierce resistance. After several hours of fighting in which many hostages were killed by crossfire, a local ceasefire was agreed on and 227 hostages were released; 61 others were freed by the Russian troops.[citation needed]

A second Russian attack on the hospital a few hours later also failed, and so did a third, resulting in further casualties. The Russian authorities accused the Chechens of using the hostages as human shields. Yeltsin's human rights advisor Sergey Kovalyov described the scene: "In half an hour the hospital was burning, and it was not until the next morning that we found out what happened there as a result of this shooting. I saw with my own eyes pieces of human flesh stuck to the walls and the ceiling and burned corpses".[citation needed]

Resolution of the crisis


On 18 June, negotiations between Basayev and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin led to a compromise which became a turning point for the First Chechen War. In exchange for release of the hostages, Russia agreed to halt military actions in Chechnya and begin negotiations.[5]

Statement of the Government of the Russian Federation.

To release the hostages who have been held in Budenovsk, the Government of Russian Federation:
1. Guarantees an immediate cessation of combat operations and bombings in the territory of Chechnya from 05 AM, 19 June 1995. Along with this action, all the children, women, elderly, sick and wounded, who have been taken hostage, should be released.
2. Appoints a delegation, authorized to negotiate the terms of the peaceful settlement of conflict in Chechnya, with V. A. Mihailov as a leader and A. I. Volsky as a deputy. Negotiations will start immediately on the 18th June 1995, as soon as the delegation arrives in Grozny. All the other issues, including a question of withdrawal of the armed forces, will be peacefully resolved at the negotiating table.
3. After all the other hostages are released, will provide Sh. Basayev and his group with transport and secure their transportation from the scene to Chechen territory.
4. Delegates the authorised representatives of the Government of the Russia Federation A. V. Korobeinikov and V. K. Medvedickov to deliver this Statement to Sh. Basayev.

Prime Minister of the Russian Federation
V. S. Chernomirdin
18 June 1995


Yeltsin meanwhile had gone to the summit of the Group of Eight in Halifax, Canada. After meeting with Yeltsin, the Group of Eight condemned violence on both sides of the Chechen conflict. When asked about the crisis by a journalist, Yeltsin denounced the rebels as ″horrible bandits with black bands on their foreheads″ (″Это оголтелые бандиты, понимаешь, с чёрными повязками″).[6]

On 19 June, most of the hostages were released. Basayev's group, with 120 volunteer hostages (including 16 journalists and nine State Duma deputies), traveled uneventfully to the village of Zandak, inside Chechnya, near the border with Dagestan. The remaining hostages were then released; Basayev, accompanied by some of the journalists, went to the village of Dargo, where he was welcomed as a hero.

The raid is widely seen as the turning point in the war.[citation needed] It boosted morale among Chechen separatists, shocked the Russian public, and discredited the Russian government.[citation needed] The initiated negotiations gave the hostage-takers the critically needed time to rest and rearm. Until the end of the conflict, the Russian forces never regained the initiative.

Casualties and damage


According to official figures, 129 people (including 18 policemen and 17 soldiers) were killed and 415 were injured in the entire event (of whom 18 later died of their wounds).[7] This includes at least 105 hostage fatalities.[1] However, according to an independent estimate 166 hostages were killed and 541 injured in the special forces attack on the hospital.[8][9] At least 11 Russian police officers and 14 soldiers were killed.[1] A report submitted by Russia to the Council of Europe stated that 130 civilians, 18 policemen, and 17 soldiers were killed, and more than 400 people were wounded.[10]

Over 160 buildings in the town were destroyed or damaged, including 54 municipal buildings and 110 private houses.[7][11] Many of the former hostages suffered psychological traumas and were treated at a new facility in Budyonnovsk.

Political aftermath


The government's handling of the Budyonnovsk was perceived as inept by many Russians. The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament passed a motion of no confidence by 241 to 72. However, this was seen as purely symbolic, and the government did not resign. Still, the debacle cost both Stepashin and interior minister Viktor Yerin their jobs; they resigned on 30 June 1995.

Basayev's force suffered 11 men killed and one missing; most of their bodies were returned to Chechnya in a freezer truck. In the years following the hostage taking, more than 40 of the surviving attackers have been tracked down and killed, including Aslambek Abdulkhadzhiev in 2002 and Basayev himself in 2006, and more than 20 were sentenced by the Stavropol territorial court to various terms of imprisonment.[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ a b c (in Russian) Буденновск Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Assault at High Noon", Time, 26 June 1995.
  3. ^ Cassational definition of the Supreme Court of Russia[permanent dead link], 19 March 2003, N 19-kp002-98 (in Russian)
  4. ^ a b Specter, Michael (16 June 1995). "Chechen Rebels Said to Kill Hostages at Russian Hospital". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  5. ^ The Chronicles of Hell Archived 19 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Yeltsin: Rebels 'Terrorists and Bandits'". The Daily News. Bowling Green. 18 June 1995. Archived from the original on 21 March 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b History of Chechen rebels' hostage taking Archived 11 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine Gazeta.Ru, 24 October 2002
  8. ^ Russia: A Timeline Of Terrorism Since 1995 Archived 10 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 30 August 2006
  9. ^ Adam Dolnik, Understanding Terrorist Innovation: Technology, Tactics and Global Trends, 2007 (p. 105)
  10. ^ Documents, working papers – Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly – 2000, volume 2
  11. ^ Day of remembrance for victims of Chechen rebel group's attack on Budyonnovsk hospital Archived 27 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Pravda, 14 June 2004