Sergei Yastrzhembskii told NTV on 14 February that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's election in January 1997 was not legitimate and that therefore Moscow sees no reason to hold talks with Maskhadov's newly appointed envoy, Salambek Maigov, Russian news agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii did not explain why in late 2001 Russian presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev met with another Maskhadov envoy, Akhmed Zakaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001). Yastrzhembskii also denied that the idea of the 23 March referendum of a new draft Chechen constitution and election legislation originated with the Russian leadership. He argued that the referendum will contribute to stabilizing the situation in Chechnya and hence to the withdrawal of some Russian troops and a reduction in the number of search operations. He claimed that support within Chechnya for the referendum is increasing. Also on 14 February, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov issued a statement questioning how Maigov was able to convene a press conference in Moscow just three months after the theater hostage taking by Chechen radicals, Interfax reported. LF
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