Referendum on Chechen constitution to be held in March-April 2003

A referendum on the Chechen constitution will be held in the republic in March-April 2003. The text of the constitution is being coordinated and various versions are under consideration and elaboration, Akhmar Zavgayev, a representative of the Chechen administration in the Federation Council, told journalists at the RIA Novosti press centre on Thursday. The variant of the constitution, making Chechnya a presidential republic, is likely to be chosen, Zavgayev noted.

After the adoption of the constitution, elections will be held in Chechnya before the end of 2003, Zavgayev said. However, he did not name the possible figures of the political fight in Chechnya. Maskhadov has no influence in Chechnya any more, he noted. "Many citizens trusted in him, and I used to call to vote for him," Zavgayev said. According to him, when Maskhadov came to power, the republic fell into decay and witness the increase in crime, kidnapping, murders and raids on neighbouring republics.

Maskhadov is not regarded as a political figure. Moreover, "nobody is going to negotiate with him," Zakayev stressed.

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