MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin in a documentary broadcast Sunday accused the United States of directly contacting and providing logistical support to North Caucasus separatist militants. In the documentary ‘President,’ which has already been broadcast in far eastern Russia on Rossiya 1 television, Putin made the claim, citing intelligence from Russian special services, to state that it occurred in the early 2000s. The documentary will air Sunday evening in Western Russia. It is being to shown to mark 15 years since Putin became president in 2000.

‘Once our special services documented what were simply direct contacts between fighters from the North Caucasus and representatives of US special forces in Azerbaijan,’ Putin said. The US side ‘helped even with transport’, he added. Putin said he told the US president of the day who told him: ‘I'll kick their ass.’ He did not give the name of the president.

‘But within 10 days, our - my subordinates, the FSB heads, received a letter from their colleagues in Washington saying:

'We have had and will have relations with all the opposition forces in Russia and we consider we have the right to do this and we will do this in the future',’ Putin said. As prime minister from 1999, Putin launched the second Chechen War, which did not officially end until 2009. The first Chechen war which began in 1994 ended with Russia pulling out its troops in 1996, leaving the region with de facto independence.

Putin said Western special services apparently supported the militants because they believed that any opponent of Russia should be treated as an ally. ‘Some people, especially special forces of Western countries, thought that if someone is working to destabilise their main geopolitical opponent - which as we realise now has always been Russia in their minds - then it is generally to their benefit.

‘It turned out that's not the case,’ Putin added. The Russian president insisted governments should never work with ‘terrorists’. ‘Absolutely not, never and nowhere. You mustn't even try to use terrorists to solve transitory political and even geopolitical tasks. ‘Because if you support them in one place, they will raise their head in another place and they will definitely strike those who supported them yesterday.’ After the second Chechen war, Moscow installed a pro-Kremlin regime in the republic, first headed by rebel-turned-Moscow-ally Akhmad Kadyrov and then after his murder, by his son Ramzan Kadyrov.