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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Takes Quick Trip to Chechnya

President Vladimir Putin paid a lightning visit to Chechnya over the weekend, flying by helicopter to the site of one of the federal forces' heaviest losses to dramatize the Kremlin's commitment to fighting the rebels to the end.

During his unannounced trip, which briefly overshadowed the crisis at NTV, Putin promised to sort out "outrageous" wage arrears to troops serving in Chechnya.

The president was accompanied by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, Russian media said.

Putin visited the site where 84 troops were wiped out in an ambush by Chechen rebels in March 2000, state-run RTR television said.

He laid flowers at the scene of the battle, known as Hill 776. He then inspected a special forces unit near the town of Khatuni and moved on to a meeting with officials at the federal base at Khankala, east of Grozny.

Russia will use all necessary force to eliminate the rebels, Putin said, adding that troops being withdrawn from the republic are only superfluous units, Itar-Tass reported.

The federal troops stationed in Chechnya "are doing a good job in accordance with the assignments they receive from the command. I am satisfied," Putin said.

Putin said he came to discuss the financing of federal forces in the region. Some of the soldiers who signed up for Chechnya on a contract basis have complained they haven't been paid.

"When I watch the main television channels, I watch with disgust the scenes when people are demanding wages they earned long ago," Putin said in televised comments.

"They are risking their lives, fulfilling their duty to the fatherland, they are fighting to restore constitutional order to the North Caucasus, and then don't get paid on time. This is outrageous," he said.

The president said the delays would be discussed at a Sunday meeting with Finance and Defense ministry officials in Moscow. Troop withdrawals from Chechnya would also be debated.

Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, said Sunday that Putin's trip was a signal that Chechen rebels would be unable to push out federal troops, as they did five years ago at the end of the first Chechen war.

"Now the times are different, the president is different and the problem is being approached differently, which demonstrates Putin's determination to restore peace and order in Chechnya once and for all," Kadyrov was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Putin has made trips to Chechnya before, one of them in the back seat of a Su-27 jet fighter during last year's presidential election campaign.

State media quickly proclaimed Saturday's visit "the main news of the day," pushing off the top news spot the overnight takeover of NTV.

The surprise trip coincided with the broadcast on state-run ORT television of a Chechnya war film depicting the isolation, tension and tedium of life at a Russian checkpoint. One of the main characters is shot dead by a female sniper who pimps her prostitute sister to Russian troops.

Chechnya has always been an effective tool with which to boost Putin's image as a tough leader close to his people.

(AP, Reuters)