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Russia: Chechen Spokesman Says People Want Democracy

New York, 22 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Chechen spokesman says the Chechen people do not care who wins elections next Monday because they are more concerned with building democracy.

Professor Mohammad Shashani, president of the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, met with correspondents in New York yesterday to discuss the presidential and parliamentary elections in Chechnya.

He called the elections "a cornerstone in Chechnya's history." He says the people need to have democratic elections and need to abide by the rule of the majority. He also says the elections will begin a new phase of neighborly relations with Russia.

Chechen separatists fought a war with Russian troops that ended with a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal last year. An agreement with Moscow gave the Chechens a measure of autonomy. The elections are part of the agreement.

Shashani says the war practically destroyed the country. He says it will take $120 billion to rebuild it and he says that without outside help Chechens cannot expect to save their nation.

The are 16 candidates for president and 900 candidates for 63 seats in the parliament.