Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that Chechnya is on the road to peace in a surprise visit to the region. The Kremlin did not publicise his trip until it was over because of concerns for his safety. Putin blamed foreign fighters for destabilising the breakaway province. “Russia has always reliably defended the interests of the Islamic world,” he said. “Russia has always been the Islamic world’s best partner and ally. In destroying Russia they are destroying one of the principal pillars in the Islamic world’s fight for the recognition of its rights on the international stage, its legitimate rights,” he added.
Muslim Chechnya has been ravaged by over a decade of conflict as guerrillas battle for independence. Elections last month gave the region its first parliament in years, an assembly dominated by the pro-Moscow United Russia party. Police and troops still die in almost-daily rebel attacks.