Putin Flies to Chechnyahttp://www.gazeta.ru/images/0letun.jpg [not image]
On Monday Vladimir Putin flew to Chechnya to award decorations to the military. The Acting President flew in on a Su-27UB fighter plane.
Vladimir Putin arrived at the Severny airport, several kilometers north of Grozny. The official object of this short visit is to award decorations to soldiers and officers as well as attending a farewell ceremony of one of the air-born regiments, leaving Chechen territory to return to its permanent base. Regiment 331 of the 98th air-borne Division, deployed on the airport’s territory, waited for the acting president’s plane from the early hours, but until the last moment it was not known that Putin had chosen a fighter plane for the trip. Upon arrival he praised the plane’s abilities.
Observers think that the fighter carrying the Acting President took off from a military airport near the city of Adler.
It is expected that after inspecting a parade by the paratroopers, Putin will award the regimental commander Nikolai Mayorov and the commander of the reconnaissance platoon Roman Shetniov with Orders of the Hero of Russia. Hoewever, the Defense Ministry press service has not confirmed reports that the Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev is now in Chechnya along with the Acting President and Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu.
Considering the forthcoming presidential elections, candidate Putin’s widely publicized appearance in Chechnya, broadcast on all Russia’s TV channels, is a clear election campaign ploy. The fact that he arrived in a fighter plane could also be a publicity stunt, as opposed to a security measure, aimed at bolstering his ‘hard man’ image.
[Edited by Serge Pod (20-03-2000 at 18:07).]