Russia

Official says no grounds exist to postpone Chechen referendum

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Responding to comments made last week by PACE rapporteur for Chechnya Lord Frank Judd, TsIK Deputy Chairwoman Olga Zastrozhnaya said on 27 January there are no grounds for postponing the planned 23 March referendum on a draft Chechen constitution, Interfax reported. She added that "only the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic can announce the referendum and declare its results valid or invalid: it is an internal affair of our country, not [a matter for] the international community." Judd has said he does not consider it appropriate to hold the referendum while hostilities in Chechnya continue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2003). In Grozny, a telephone hotline has been established so that constitutional experts can provide information to citizens concerning the planned referendum and the draft constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. But "Kommersant-Daily" pointed out on 28 January that there are only 250 telephones in the whole of Grozny, all of them in the offices of senior government officials. Only six of 19 raion administrations have telephones, and there are none at all in rural areas, the paper added. Meanwhile, Achkhoi-Martan district administration head Shamil Buraev has proposed forming vigilante squads and establishing additional checkpoints on major roads to forestall anticipated efforts by Chechen fighters to disrupt preparations for the referendum, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. LF
NEW MOVE TOWARD CONSENSUS IN CHECHNYA

Local officials in Urus-Martan, together with the heads of local branches of political and public organizations and religious officials, signed a treaty on civic accord on 25 January, Russian news agencies reported. Urus-Martan was regarded for years as a stronghold of militant Wahhabism. Officials and political figures from other towns are expected to add their signatures to the document. The signatories reject the use of the threat of violence as a means of achieving political goals. The treaty lays out the basic principles for a political settlement of the Chechen conflict in which all public and political forces would be involved, ITAR-TASS on 27 January quoted Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov as saying. Chechen deputy administration head Tauz Djabrailov similarly said the treaty marks the beginning of a "real internal political dialogue" that will enable "healthy forces to consolidate for the sake of stabilization." LF

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