CaptionSmoke rises where shells have recently landed. January saw some of the fiercest fighting since the start of the struggle for Chechen independence. After failed negotiations to persuade Chechnya to recognize Moscow's authority, President Yeltsin sent in the army on December 1994. But the troops were badly motivated and poorly equipped, and the battle for the capital of Grozny raged for weeks. Thousands lost their lives and many more became homeless. With three-quarters of the population disapproving of his policies, Yeltsin's popularity reached an all-time low.