This paper considers the Chechen secessionist struggle against Russia. Although the Chechens had good moral grounds for claiming independence in November 1991, this paper shows that Yeltsin also had reasons, defensible in legal terms and liberal secessionist theory, for rejecting it. Even if Moscow had granted Chechnya independence, this would not have created peace and stability. Moscow had a right to defend its territorial integrity, but its conduct in the war has proved counter-productive. It has polarised opinion in Chechnya and made any solution to the crisis more difficult to achieve. On paper, Moscow's longstanding proposal of political autonomy for Chechnya looks the best way forward, but it is unlikely to satisfy Chechen nationalists or the Islamic fundamentalists who have more expansionist aims.