Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Envoy Tells Putin of Volatility

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- Moscow moved forward Monday with preparations for a constitutional referendum in Chechnya, and President Vladimir Putin's human rights envoy to the region conceded the situation there still has not been normalized.

The statement was underscored by the latest of a series of kidnappings of local Chechen leaders. The deputy head of the village administration in Ishcherskaya, Nikolai Lozhkin, was kidnapped from his home Sunday night, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration said on condition of anonymity. The four masked hostage-takers, wielding submachine guns, warned his family not to go to police, Interfax reported.

Meeting with Putin on Monday to discuss preparations for the referendum, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, Putin's human rights envoy, said violence is not subsiding in Chechnya.

"There are no normal conditions, no elected authorities or self-government, there are no telephone lines" and this is all "a perfect environment for crime," Sultygov told Putin, according to Interfax.

Still, Sultygov said the Chechen population was "inspired" by the chance to elect its own government, Interfax reported.

Putin said the referendum and the creation of an Interior Ministry in Chechnya were a response to what "the Chechen public asked for."

The draft of the constitution was published Monday in a local Chechen newspaper, its 112 articles outlining the system of government for the region and proclaiming it a state within Russia, Interfax reported. The regional government will be led by a president who can be any Russian citizen older than 30, regardless of residency, and there will also be a bicameral legislature.

The Kremlin has claimed to have virtually ended military operations that began in Chechnya in 1999 after a series of incursions and apartment house bombings and it is urging refugees to return home. Itar-Tass reported Monday that law enforcement operations in the relatively calm districts of Chechnya were being turned over to police.

However, troops continue to be killed daily in small-scale skirmishes and mine explosions. In fighting over the last 24 hours, six soldiers and one police officer were killed and 16 wounded, the Chechen official said.

Three rebels were detained in a clash on the outskirts of Grozny between Interior Ministry troops and rebels that killed one soldier and wounded another, the official said. More than 200 suspects were detained in sweep operations for rebel sympathizers.

Pro-Moscow Chechen police have seized an archive containing documents issued by or belonging to the separatist Chechen parliament, RIA-Novosti reported Monday.

The archive was found in a private house belonging to former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in the Chechen village of Starye Atagi, RIA-Novosti said, citing a source in the Chechen Interior Ministry.

The archive included blank passports printed abroad and samples of bank notes that separatists had planned to introduce as Chechnya's official currency, the news agency said. Islamic fundamentalist pamphlets also were found.