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Chechnya: Moscow Threatens To Replace Rapporteur

Moscow, 28 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today threatened to replace the Council of Europe's rapporteur on Chechnya if he maintains his insistence that an upcoming constitutional referendum in Chechnya be postponed. Interfax news agency quoted Dmitrii Rogozin, head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as saying if the Council of Europe continues to call for postponing the referendum, Russia will move to replace Lord Judd as the assembly's rapporteur on Chechnya.

Last week, Judd visited Chechnya and has presented a proposal for the Council of Europe's latest discussion on Chechnya scheduled for today.

Speaking to RFE/RL about his report yesterday, Judd said: "If a referendum [on a new constitution for Chechnya] is going to take place, first of all, there has to be a feeling of security, but not oppressive security, but security in which people can be confident to have meetings and discuss and debate what is being proposed, there has to be a lot of information, there has to be a real opportunity for free media to put the issues from different angles."

The referendum, slated for March, is being presented by the Russian government as proof that its war with Chechen rebels is almost over. International observers are critical, saying it comes too soon in a republic where separatist rebels and federal forces clash almost every day.