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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin: Army Must Obey the Law

President Vladimir Putin called indirectly Tuesday for an end to abuses by federal forces trying to flush out rebels in Chechnya, saying laws must not be violated during search operations.

"You are aware of signals about the violation of laws during various operations" in Chechnya, Putin said during a meeting of his Security Council. "They have been thoroughly investigated and will be investigated in the future."

Critics, however, say that few cases of abuses of civilians during the so-called mopping up operations are prosecuted, and Putin warned against violations during the searches and other operations in Chechnya. "I want to draw your attention [to the fact] that it is indispensable to meet all provisions of law, relevant government instructions and orders in force," Putin said.

He mentioned one that requires the presence of a prosecutor's office representative during search operations.

The search operations have been widely criticized by civilians and human rights groups that say they are rife with abuses including illegal detentions, rapes and killings of civilians in Chechnya.

Federal forces pressed ahead with the operations, detaining at least 130 people in the Shali district in southern Chechnya and in and around the capital, Grozny, in the previous 24 hours, an official in the region's Moscow-backed administration said Tuesday.

The administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that four servicemen were killed and four others wounded when federal posts came rebel fire in the past day.

Putin told the Security Council that the number of checkpoints and command posts operated by federal forces in Chechnya should be reduced, saying that their effectiveness is "extremely low." He said checkpoints should remain only where they are needed to provide law and order.

Putin has pinned Kremlin hopes for peace on a constitutional referendum that is to be held in Chechnya next month. Tens of thousands of Chechen refugees living in Ingushetia will be allowed to vote in the March 23 referendum, but Akhmad Kadyrov, the chief of Chechnya's Moscow-backed administration, said Tuesday that they will have to travel to Chechnya to cast ballots, Interfax reported. He said the refugees will have to vote where they are registered.

However, Interfax and Itar-Tass quoted Russia's chief election official, Alexander Veshnyakov, as saying buses would deliver refugees to Chechnya for the vote and that polling places would be set up near the border with Ingushetia, suggesting they might not have to travel to their place of registration to vote.

A pro-rebel news agency, Kavkaz Center, said Tuesday it had received an e-mail message sent on behalf of Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev that said a group he leads, referred to as Riyadus Salikhiin, was behind the Dec. 27 bombing of the headquarters of the Kremlin-backed government, which killed at least 61 people.

The e-mail contained photographs of the truck bombing and said it was carried out by "a simple Chechen family" -- a 43-year-old man, his 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, Kavkaz Center said. Russian officials have blamed the attack on Basayev and an Arab militant, Abu al-Walid.