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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

General Says End Near in Chechnya

KHANKALA, Chechnya -- A top Russian commander said Tuesday his troops would soon destroy Chechen rebels in their last mountain strongholds and win the war in Chechnya.

All was quiet on the outskirts of the shattered capital, which Russia seized over the weekend, freeing thousands of troops to fight in the republic's southern mountains.

Government and military officials flew to Chechnya to visit Grozny, where troops have launched a "clean-up" operation against remaining rebels, and civilians have just started emerging from cellars.

"There is information that in the city up to 300 rebels and mercenaries are hiding out in cellars and underground tunnels," Interfax reported, citing Russian headquarters.

General Viktor Kazantsev, the top commander in Chechnya, forecast a quick end to the more than four-month campaign.

"In the coming days, the end of the operation to destroy bandit groups in the hills and mountains of Chechnya will be announced," he said in televised comments. "It will be soon."

Chief of General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin flew to Chechnya along with Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin's top spokesman on the conflict.

Kvashnin told ORT television they had to assess how many troops could be pulled out of Chechnya.

But the rebel web site said fighting was fierce near the village of Duba-Yurt, which guards the mouth of the Argun gorge, one of two main routes into the mountains. It said the rebels, beaten back by heavy bombing and artillery, had regrouped and strengthened control of the gorge.

Rushailo said on arrival in Chechnya that troops would ensure that all rebels left in Grozny would be killed.

"We will perform a more thorough operation to clean up the settlements," Rushailo said in televised comments. The rebels have vowed to retake Grozny as they did twice in lightning raids during the last war.

In a sign that criticism on Chechnya is not fading, Arizona Senator John McCain, a U.S. presidential hopeful, said President Bill Clinton should stop International Monetary Fund funding to Russia.

"The president of the United States of America can say no more IMF funds, no more export-import loans, no more assistance until this brutality stops and you begin negotiations with the elected Chechen government," McCain said on the campaign trail.