Russian human rights activists want Chechen referendum postponed

News and Press Release
Originally published
Prominent Russian human rights activists including independent State Duma Deputies Yulii Rybakov and Sergei Yushenkov and Memorial human rights center head Yurii Orlov issued a statement on 11 February backing the call by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur for Chechnya Lord Frank Judd for a postponement of the planned 23 March referendum on a new draft constitution and election laws, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29, 30, and 31 January 2003). They argued that the referendum should not be held until a cease-fire is in place and all major factions within Chechen society, including supporters of President Aslan Maskhadov, sign an agreement on future priorities. Holding the referendum now as scheduled, they argued, will only deepen the civil confrontation in Chechnya. LF

In an article published on 10 February in "Novaya gazeta," Grigorii Yavlinskii likewise argues that the planned Chechen referendum should be postponed. Yavlinskii pointed out that half of Chechnya's population still regards Maskhadov as the legitimate president and that most people are not familiar with the content of the new draft basic law. Yavlinskii also expressed concern that European bodies are being excluded from the search for a settlement of the Chechen conflict, as the mandate of the OSCE mission will not be renewed, and Lord Judd's threat to resign should the referendum go ahead as scheduled was used as the rationale for disbanding the PACE-Duma working group on Chechnya. Yavlinskii argued that holding the referendum could exacerbate the situation in Chechnya and could trigger new terrorist attacks elsewhere in Russia. He also called for talks among all warring factions in Chechnya and for a peace conference to be chaired by President Putin. LF

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