Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a rare visit to military bases in the restive northern Caucasus.

Mr. Putin on Monday inspected the 33rd Motor Rifle Brigade base in the village of Botlikh in Dagestan, close to the border with Chechnya. Dagestan and Chechnya are republics in the mostly Muslim region of southern Russia.

Chechen separatists have been involved in two separatist wars with the government in the past 13 years. Some of the violence has spilled over the border to Dagestan and other small neighboring republics

The president's visit coincided with a military operation in southern Dagestan against rebels holed up in a wooded area.

Militant attacks on government targets are frequent in Dagestan and other parts of northern Caucasus. Rebels accuse the government forces of abusing local civilians.

Mr. Putin urged local administrators during a conference on Monday to work closely with the population to improve security in the region.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.