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Russia: International Rights Group Denounces Chechnya Election

Moscow, 3 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) denounced Sunday's (5 October) scheduled presidential election in Chechnya, calling it a "masquerade" amid human rights abuses. The group said crimes against the civilian population, particularly kidnappings and forced disappearances, have increased significantly since the 23 March referendum that paved the way for the presidential poll.

Other critics say the election campaign -- which ends at midnight -- is marred since all the main challengers to Moscow-appointed administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov have dropped out of the race or been disqualified by election officials.

In Chechnya today, an unnamed pro-Moscow administration official told the Associated Press that 13 Russian soldiers died as a result of small-scale clashes in the past 24 hours. But Russian officials say the situation is calm and they expect a high voter turnout on Sunday.