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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Visits Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ - The pro-Moscow leader of Chechnya said Sunday that President Vladimir Putin's lightning visit to the war-shattered republic 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," Chechen administration leader Akhmad Kadyrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

During his one-day trip on Saturday, Putin visited the site of a March 2000 battle where rebels killed 84 Russian soldiers, and inspected a Russian special forces unit. He also met with Russian military officials and the heads of local Chechen administrations.

"The participants in the (administration) meetings have realized that the course toward the complete restoration of the constitutional system and toward Chechnya's return to the Russian legal system will not change under any circumstances," Kadyrov said.

Russian officials have claimed for months that the 18-month-old war is winding down, and there have been no major battles for a year. Yet the rebels continue to keep Russian forces on the defensive with daily ambushes, shelling and land mine explosions. There are regular attacks even in the areas with the heaviest Russian presence, including the northern town of Gudermes, where Kadyrov's administration has its headquarters, and the capital Grozny.

Across the republic, local officials have been under pressure from rebels, who have threatened many for cooperating with the Russian authorities. On Friday, one of Kadyrov's top deputies was killed after a bomb was planted in the television studio where he was taping a broadcast, and a top Grozny prosecutor was gunned down Saturday as he returned from investigating the killing of three Russian women at the city's main market.

Seven people were killed on Saturday in Grozny, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. It offered no other details, but there has been a steady stream of civilian killings recently, which local residents blame variously on rebels, federal soldiers and roving criminal bands with unclear loyalties.

After being ousted from the breakaway republic in 1996, Russian troops returned in fall 1999. Putin's government said the offensive was motivated by apartment bombings that killed some 300 people in three Russian cities, and by rebel incursions from Chechnya into the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan.