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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Meets With Chechen Leaders

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- President Vladimir Putin met with Chechnya's pro-Moscow leaders on Wednesday to begin laying the groundwork for dividing powers between the Kremlin and a future Chechen government, even as the latest rebel attacks killed four servicemen and wounded 10 in the separatist republic.

In an acknowledgment of the scale of the task ahead, Putin said the first job must be to repair the destruction left after more than 3 1/2 years of fighting.

"It is necessary to do the most elementary thing -- clear the debris," Putin said, referring to the heavily damaged Chechen capital, Grozny, news agencies reported. Putin reiterated his view that progress had been achieved in reaching a political settlement in the republic.

Putin said during the meeting with the Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, Chechen Prime Minister Anatoly Popov and the federal minister for Chechnya, Stanislav Ilyasov, that the process to "restore peaceful life to Chechnya has had positive results, but many problems still remain."

He warned that rebels would still try "to intimidate Chechen residents. But until now they haven't managed to and, I think, they won't manage to in the future," according to footage shown on television.

Kadyrov told Putin that work was under way on new apartment buildings, hospitals and schools in Grozny. He also said Chechen officials planned to create a Chechen State Council by June 10 that would involve representatives from across the republic.

Fighting continued to wrack the region Wednesday. Rebels attacked federal positions 20 times over the past 24 hours, killing four soldiers, according to an official in the Moscow-backed Chechen administration.

Five soldiers were wounded in a clash with rebels near the village of Tsa-Vedeno, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Also, according to the official, a rebel band raided the village of Ulus-Kert late Tuesday and abducted two police officers. The rebels demanded the release of two residents detained on suspicion of helping to organize last year's seizure of the Dubrovka theater in Moscow, the Chechen official said.

Federal forces bombed suspected rebel bases in the southern Vedeno district, and rounded up at least 160 people on suspicion of aiding the rebels.