Chechnya: Shakhmurzayev: "We need peace, not a constitution"

Ruslan Isayev, North Caucasus - Lyoma Shakhmurzayev, chairman of "Lamast," the Institute of Political Culture for Chechen public issues, considers that the March 23 referendum on the constitution has come about at the wrong time. "We need peace now, not a constitution," Shakhmurzayev stated.

According to him, the referendum will not only worsen the political situation and destroy an opportunity for dialogue, but it will also cause radicalism and confrontations to arise between the opposing sides.

"Prolonged resistance will result in the political defeat of Russia in Chechnya, but it will also lead to unspeakable suffering for the Chechen nation," asserts Shakhmurzayev. "I therefore appeal to all patriots and citizens of the Russian Federation to oppose Russia's mistake."

In his opinion, Russian military administration in Chechnya has no legal basis for the referendum. "During 3 years of total superiority of power in the Chechen Republic there has been no legal framework established for military occupation."

He thinks Chechen non-governmental organisations should not engage in passive boycotts; instead, the referendum should be actively resisted. "It is essential to protest on that day rather than suffer the scorn and derision of the nation," he insists.

Human rights activists are also convinced that on March 23, the Electoral Committee in Chechnya will not be able to assure a necessary 50% turnout. "If we discount the 30,000 [Russian] soldiers, then that leaves 270,000 citizens, and even these will probably not show up all."

Shakhmurzayev is certain that, sooner or later, the favourable results of the election will be evaluated and that Russia, itself, will announce the illegality of the referendum. "This is unavoidable if we want to finally resolve the conflict," he says.



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