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A RIA Novosti interview with Foreign Ministry official ahead of Chechnya referendum

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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
DAILY NEWS BULLETIN

A RIA NOVOSTI INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER YAKOVENKO, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN, AHEAD CHECHNYA REFERENDUM

694-22-03-2003

Q.: Will you please comment on the international aspects of the forthcoming referendum in Chechnya?

A.: It is hardly surprising that the March 23rd referendum on the Chechen constitution is in international public spotlight. Suffice it to say the Chechen settlement has been in the focus of attention of such international organisations as the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

On February 26th-March 4th, a joint group of experts of the UN Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe worked there at the invitation of the Russian and local election commissions and the Chechen administration. Its task was to assess the progress of preparations for the referendum in the Chechen Republic and to provide appropriate conditions for it.

On March 3rd, the group forwarded its preliminary conclusion on the results of its meetings with the heads of the Chechen and the Central Election Commissions, the Federal Migration Service, the presidential envoy for human rights and freedoms in Chechnya, members of the Chechen government, spokesmen for non-governmental organisations, and displaced persons.

Russia wants the referendum to go smoothly under the international observers' monitoring. The Russian Foreign Ministry, and the Central and Chechen Election Commissions have done a great job in this area.

In fact, Russia is not obliged to invite international observers to the referendum. The forthcoming Sunday referendum is a purely national event which requires no formal international verification of its legitimacy. However, in an effort to show our openness and readiness for effective co-operation with international structures and organisations in the Chechen republic, we have invited all those who want to monitor the referendum (the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the CIS). Our assumption is that the monitoring will give our partners a clear insight into the political processes afoot in Chechnya. The ODIHR leadership has decided to delegate a group of five observers to the referendum. They will visit polling stations in Chechnya and visit camps for internally displaced persons situated in Ingushetia. The CIS executive committee has also voiced an intention to send observers to the referendum. The Council of Europe, however, has turned down the invitation for security reasons.

We are convinced any form of international presence at the March 23rd referendum will have a benign effect, and we are ready for maximal relevant co-operation with international organisations.

Q.: How else does the Russian Foreign Ministry contribute to the referendum-related arrangements?

A.: In view of the worldwide interest in the Chechen referendum, the Russian Foreign Ministry offers an extensive coverage of the preparations for and organisation of the event. For instance, the Russian Foreign Ministry's website has a special section called Political Settlement in Chechnya with permanently updated information covering the Russian leadership's activities in this area.

In a bid to give foreign public a clue to the Chechen developments and inform them of preparations for the referendum, all the Foreign Ministry offices abroad are provided with relevant information.

The booklet and CD "Chechnya: Questions and Answers" are being circulated in other countries in the English, French, German, Spanish and Arab languages. The text of the booklet in Russian and other foreign languages can also be found on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.

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