Russia

Upcoming referendum in Chechnya: Statement by the Russian Fed. to the OSCE

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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
DAILY NEWS BULLETIN 07.03.2003
Unofficial translation from Russian

STATEMENT BY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION TO THE OSCE A. Y. ALEKSEEV AT THE SESSION OF THE PERMANENT COUNCIL HELD ON MARCH 6, 2003

(concerning the upcoming referendum in Chechnya)

Esteemed Mr. President,

I would like to draw the attention of the Permanent Council to the visible new confirmation of cooperation between the Russian Federation and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in such a matter of fundamental importance to us as the restoration of a normal life in the Chechen Republic.

As you know, a joint group of experts from the ODIHR and the Council of Europe worked in Moscow, as well as in Grozny and Znamenskoye from February 26 to March 4, 2003, at the invitation of the administration and the election commission of the Chechen Republic. Its task was to give an assessment of the preparations for the referendum in the Chechen Republic and of the provision of conditions for holding it. On March 3 the group's preliminary opinion was circulated following the intensive meetings with senior officials from the election commissions - both the Chechen and the Central - with the Federal Migration Service, with the President's special representative for human and civil rights in Chechnya, with members of Chechnya's government, with the representatives of NGOs, and with internally displaced persons. I am confident that many have already familiarized themselves with this preliminary opinion. It quite objectively, to our mind, reflects the efforts which are being undertaken by bodies of power and institutions of civil society for the preparation of the referendum, and the problems which still exist in this subject of the Russian Federation.

Important, we think, is the reflection in the expert group's opinion of the proposition that holding the referendum will be a step towards a political settlement in Chechnya. We are grateful to ODIHR for its recommendations, which Russia always has treated and continues to treat most seriously, and value the Office's striving to lend us assistance in holding the referendum on a proper level. For their part the Russian authorities have done everything possible to provide normal conditions for the experts' work. We hope that the experts' visit will be regarded as one more evidence of the openness of Russia for constructive cooperation with international organizations in the Chechen sector.

I want also to thank the leader of the evaluation mission, Mr. Hrair Balian, who next week completes his work as the head of ODIHR Elections Section. We are appreciative to him for his many-year fruitful work for the enhancement of democratic election standards throughout the OSCE area.

At the last Permanent Council session I described in detail the course of the preparations for the referendum in Chechnya. Quite a lot of facts on this matter are also contained in the opinion of the group of experts. So I am not going to take away much time from you with details.

I shall only note that the group's opinion cites the specified data on the number of servicemen who will be able to take part in the vote. As the experts have specified, in the lists of referendum participants are entered the 23,000 servicemen permanently stationed in Chechnya, that is, only about 4 percent of those who have the right to vote in the republic.

I shall draw you attention to one more fact, of which the experts also took note during their trip. In Chechnya there continues the reduction of the military group of federal forces and there goes the dismantling of roadblocks, which, as is noted in the opinion, will contribute to greater freedom of movement on referendum day. Already after the experts' departure a trainload of servicemen and equipment left Chechnya. During March 1,270 servicemen and about 200 units of combat equipment will be withdrawn from the republic.

In conclusion I want to stress the great importance of the upcoming referendum for the process of political settlement and of the fostering of a peaceful life in the republic. The Russian Federation is interested in the referendum being held quietly and in the presence of international observers. As you know, we have invited the ODIHR, Council of Europe and the CIS Executive Committee to send their observers. The Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, Mr. Yuri Yarov, has already announced the intention to send CIS observers to the referendum. We are convinced that the international presence in any possible form at the referendum itself on March 23 will constitute a positive factor, and we are ready to maximally cooperate with the ODIHR in this matter.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

INFORMATION AND PRESS DEPARTMENT
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