Chechen President rejects Russia's offer of autonomy

In a statement posted on on 18 March, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov rejected Russian officials' recent suggestions that the successful adoption of the new Chechen draft constitution could pave the way for a power-sharing agreement between Moscow and Chechnya under which the latter would be granted "broad autonomy," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 2003). He argued that Russian attempts to force Chechens "at gunpoint" to acknowledge Russia's hegemony over them are doomed to failure. As in a 27 February address, Maskhadov appealed to voters "to declare openly that there can be no alternative to an independent Chechen state," by which he presumably meant boycotting the 23 March referendum on the new constitution and election legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2003). LF

Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov expressed qualified approval on 18 March of the amnesty for Chechen fighters proposed by Chechen religious leaders at a 17 March meeting in Moscow with President Putin, Russian media reported. Kadyrov added, however, that only those fighters not on federal and international wanted lists should qualify for amnesty, but not persons accused of murder, abductions, or acts of terrorism. ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed senior Kremlin official as describing the proposal as meriting attention. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Pavel Krasheninnikov (Union of Rightist Forces) pointed out that such an amnesty would be a further demonstration of the Russian authorities' "sincere desire to bring the situation in Chechnya back to normal" and thus "an important stabilizing factor," Interfax reported. Krasheninnikov also argued that the amnesty should not extend to "rebel leaders...who are responsible for dozens of deaths" or to the organizers of terrorist attacks. LF


About 70 percent of Russian citizens support the initiation of peace negotiations in Chechnya, reported on 18 March, citing a survey by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). Only 26 percent urge the continuation of military operations there. The poll of 1,600 respondents in 40 Russian regions was released on 3 March. Forty-four percent of respondents believe the 23 March referendum on a new constitution in Chechnya will have no impact on the situation in the republic. Twenty-five percent believe the referendum will make the situation better, 14 percent said the situation will become worse, and 20 percent had no opinion. Asked whether President Putin is doing enough to resolve the Chechnya situation, 44 percent answered affirmatively and the same percentage said "no." VY


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