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Russia: Council Of Europe Delegation Visits Chechnya

Grozny, 22 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A delegation from the Council of Europe met today in Grozny with members of the Chechen Central Election Commission and a group preparing the referendum on Chechnya's draft constitution. Frank Judd led the delegation from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). He expressed hope the referendum in March will be democratic. He said the PACE delegation is interested to know how many people participated in drafting the constitution, how active the debating was, and whether the free media took part in it.

Judd met yesterday with Russian officials in Moscow. He called on the Kremlin to ensure Chechens have an informed role in the referendum.

Critics say the referendum is a bid by Moscow to show that Russia has the situation in Chechnya under control despite almost daily clashes between federal forces and separatist rebels.

Yesterday, the Russian human rights group Memorial said the Council of Europe is "not serious or thorough enough" in its work at monitoring the conflict in Chechnya.